Trainer suspended after two of his horses mysteriously die after races

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has suspended trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. indefinitely and Lord Miles, who is trained by Joseph, was scratched from the Kentucky Derby on Thursday, days after two of his horses died suddenly on the track.

The suspension prohibits Joseph, or any trainer directly or indirectly employed by him, from entering horses in races or requesting stalls at any tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc.

The decision comes after the deaths of Parents Pride on Saturday and Chasing Artie on Tuesday. Both collapsed on the track and died after the races.

“Given the sudden unexplained deaths, we have reasonable concerns about the condition of his horses and have decided to suspend him indefinitely until the details are analyzed and understood,” said Bill Mudd, president and CEO of the operation of CDI, in a press release. “The safety of our equine and human athletes and the integrity of our sport is our top priority. We consider these measures to be our duty and our responsibility.

Saffie Joseph Jr. during morning practice for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Thursday. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Investigators have yet to find a cause for the deaths of Joseph’s two horses in 72 hours, as well as two others over the past week, which has cast a veil over Churchill Downs during final preparations for the Derby du Kentucky Saturday.

“It’s the worst part of the game,” said Derby favorite Forte co-owner Mike Repole. “It’s very sad.”

Joseph said earlier Thursday that he was interviewed by investigators from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and Churchill Downs.

“They found no wrongdoing on our part,” he said.

Joseph received permission from the KHRC to withdraw five horses from racing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, according to the Daily Racing Form. He had already scratched a Wednesday. He told reporters earlier in the day that he had scratched any horse that had come into contact with the two dead out of an abundance of caution.

Despite the deaths, Joseph had planned to race Lord Miles in the Derby. The foal arrived from Florida; the two dead horses had been at Keeneland in Lexington.

Joseph, a 36-year-old third-generation trainer, said earlier on Thursday that investigators examined his stable, checked the horses’ veterinary records and took blood samples from each of his horses, which showed nothing wrong. unnatural. Feed, hay, straw and supplements used by horses were also checked.

The deaths are the first for Joseph, who came to Florida in 2011 after training in his native Barbados.

“It crushes you. It shakes your confidence, it makes you doubt everything,” he said.

At the same time, he added: “There are two ways: you can run away and pretend it didn’t happen or you can face it and find out what we can do.”

Meanwhile, two horses dropped their practice riders during track training on Thursday, including the Derby Verifying entrant. Neither runner was injured.

As well as Joseph’s horses, Derby has long shot Wild On Ice and 3-year-old filly Take Charge Briana suffered musculoskeletal injuries while training or racing at Churchill Downs. Both were euthanized.

Joseph said the first autopsy performed on his horse did not reveal a cause of death.

“We are currently living in unknown conditions, so that is the hardest part,” he said.

Spectators at morning practice were surprised when Verifying, one of trainer Brad Cox’s four Derby runners, ran loose onto the track, setting off a warning siren. The colt was caught by a rider and handed over to Cox, who took it back to the barn. The exercise rider has dislocated his right shoulder.

“He was galloping and looking great. Next thing I know the pilot was on the ground,” Cox said. “We were lucky, we dodged a bullet.”

Cox said he had “no concerns” about issues with the track following horse deaths.

Shortly after, And Tell Me Nolies rose and dumped their rider before tearing themselves off the track at top speed and rampaging through the stables area in search of their barn. Trainer Peter Miller said the filly appears to be doing well and is expected to start at the Kentucky Oaks on Friday.

“Luckily she didn’t come down or anything, so she’s fine,” he said.

Repole thinks it would be helpful if the sport did more to reassure the public that it takes safety seriously.

“People will understand injuries,” he said. “People will not understand wounds with death.”

The industry was rocked in 2019 when more than 40 horses died in Santa Anita, California. As a result, a series of security reforms were enacted and spread throughout the country.

“The horses get a lot of care and we do our best to avoid this stuff, but it still happens,” Joseph said. “A lot of times in these sudden deaths, you never get answers.”

Leave a Comment