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.