Churchill Downs Incorporated announced on Thursday that trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. is suspended indefinitely after what the organization described as “highly unusual sudden deaths” of two horses trained by Joseph at Churchill Downs Racetrack. Lord Miles, who was slated to run the 149th Kentucky Derby and is trained by Joseph, has been scratched from Saturday’s race by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
The suspension bars Joseph, or any trainer directly or indirectly employed by Joseph, from entering horses in races or applying for stall occupancy at all Churchill Downs Incorporated-owned race tracks.
“Given the unexplained sudden deaths, we have reasonable concerns about the condition of his horses, and decided to suspend him indefinitely until details are analyzed and understood,” said Bill Mudd, President and Chief Operating Officer of Churchill Downs Incorporated. “The safety of our equine and human athletes and integrity of our sport is our highest priority. We feel these measures are our duty and responsibility.”
Last Saturday, four-year-old filly Parents Pride collapsed and died following the eighth race at Churchill Downs. On Tuesday, five-year-old Chasing Artie had a similar incident following the eighth race that day. Both horses were owned by Kenneth Ramsey and trained by Joseph.
“We’ve done every test and everything in our power to find out what happened,” Joseph told Thoroughbred Daily News. “It happened at a bad time. The Kentucky Racing Commission told me there was no wrongdoing on my part. They looked at my barn and said you did nothing wrong. Churchill asked me to scratch all the horses and I did. Then for Churchill to come out and suspend me indefinitely, they’re trying to save their face.”
In the past week, four horses have died in racing or training at Churchill Downs. Take Charge Briana was euthanized following an injury in a turf race on Tuesday and Wild On Ice, who was scheduled to compete in the Derby, was put down after suffering a leg injury during training. Neither horse was trained by Joseph. The deaths have prompted an investigation by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.
Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.
“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”
Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.
“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”
Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.
Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.
Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.
U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”
Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.
The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.
Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.
It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”
Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.