Churchill Downs suspended trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. on Thursday after two of his horses suddenly died this week ahead of the Kentucky Derby. As a result, the Joseph-trained Lord Miles was scratched from Saturday’s race.
Two of Joseph’s horses, Parents Pride and Chasing Artie, died this week at Churchill Downs.
“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,” Bill Mudd, president and chief operating officer of CDI, said in a statement, via The Associated Press. “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.”
Four horses have died in the lead up to the Kentucky Derby. Two of those deaths were explainable.
Take Charge Briana was euthanized Saturday after sustaining a “catastrophic” injury during competition. Wild on Ice was euthanized last week after he broke his hind leg during training. Neither of those two horses were trained by Joseph.
The death of the two horses trained by Joseph weren't related to injuries, but the cause of death remains unknown. Joseph is a longtime and renowned trainer in the horse racing world. His horses produced 174 wins and earned more than $10 million in prize money last year.
"We’re going to have to figure out, ‘What’s the reason?’" Joseph said Wednesday. "I don’t think it’s bad fortune. It’s not about that, to happen twice. ... I don’t have an answer right now. I wish I did.
"Something’s not right. These horses, it wasn’t because of injury. They left the gate and didn’t even try and then dropped down. … Theories aren’t going to help. We need facts."
Joseph said Thursday that he was questioned by investigators, but that they "found no wrongdoing on our part." He has since scratched any horse from upcoming races that have been in contact with the two horses who died as a precaution.
"It crushes you," Joseph said, via The Associated Press. "It knocks your confidence. It makes you doubt everything ... There's two ways: You can run away from it and pretend it didn't happen, or you could face it and find out what we can do."
The Kentucky Derby is set to run on Saturday night at Churchill Downs in Louisville.