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Omaha Beach, Spun to Run scratched from Pegasus World Cup

Updated January 23, 2020 - 6:59 pm

The $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park lost much of its luster Thursday when 7-5 morning line favorite Omaha Beach and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun to Run were scratched.

Omaha Beach was withdrawn from Saturday’s race after X-rays showed a small fracture in his right hind leg, trainer Richard Mandella told reporters at the Hallandale Beach, Florida, track. The Pegasus was to have been the 4-year-old son of War Front’s final start before being retired to stand at stud at Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

Earlier Thursday, trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero announced that Spun the Run, the 7-2 second choice, was out after developing a case of the hives.

The departure of Omaha Beach is especially disappointing, given the brilliance he has shown throughout his career.

Among his five victories in 10 starts were the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, both at Oaklawn Park, and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship and the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.

It takes a special horse to win Grade 1 races at 6 furlongs and 1⅛th mile, and he could have added an even rarer feat in last year’s Kentucky Derby. But the 4-1 early favorite had to be scratched in the days leading up to the race after suffering an entrapped epiglottis, a throat problem that makes it difficult for a horse to breathe.

If there’s a silver lining to the scratches, it’s that the 1⅛th-mile Pegasus World Cup is suddenly a wide-open betting affair with the top two choices out. I expect Bob Baffert-trained Mucho Gusto will inherit the favorite’s role, though he won’t be anywhere near as short a price as Omaha Beach would have been.

There’s another new twist that will add to the handicapping challenge: For the first time, administration of race day medication is prohibited in the main event and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitation immediately preceding it, meaning most of the starters will be making the first start of their careers without the anti-bleeding medication Lasix.

That could lead to horses suddenly being pulled up during the race if they begin to bleed into their airways and experience difficulty breathing.

But despite the uncertainty and loss of the marquee names, the card is still worth betting, as it features nine stakes, capped by the Pegasus races.

#RJhorseracing featured races

Disappointed as they are, the #RJhorseracing handicapping crew is soldiering on and tackling both Grade 1 Pegasus races, the World Cup and the Turf.

In the Turf, a 1 3/16th-mile affair for 4-year-olds and up, the handicapping crew was barely siding with the well-traveled European mare Magic Wand, the 7-2 morning line favorite, over Mo Forza (5-1), who ships in from California riding a four-race win streak. They have Without Parole (4-1) as a distant third pick.

Magic Wand obviously fits at this level and is the only horse in the field we know runs well without Lasix, but she also has a habit of running second. So I’m going to count on her doing that and use the Chad Brown-trained Without Parole on top based on his solid closing third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in his U.S. debut. I’ll go with Arklow (6-1) to show.

In the Pegasus World Cup, the crowd ’cappers were deadlocked between Mucho Gusto, 9-2 on a morning line that will need to be revised, and Higher Power (6-1). They have Diamond Oops (15-1) close behind in third.

I’ll break the tie and go with Mucho Gusto, who has been freshened for this by trainer Bob Baffert and working lights out at Santa Anita. Adding to my confidence is the presence of the brilliant Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle. I’m calling an audible and using Bodexpress (30-1), who might get an easy lead with the scratch of Spun to Run, to place and Tax (8-1) for third.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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