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Kentucky Derby horses 2023, Saffie Joseph Jr. Trainer Suspended after Two Horses Mysteriously Die


The trainer, Saffie Joseph Jr., has been suspended indefinitely by Churchill Downs after two of his horses, Parents Pride and Chasing Artie, died mysteriously on the track after races. As a result of the suspension, Joseph and any trainers employed by him are prohibited from entering horses in races or applying for stalls at all Churchill Downs-owned tracks. Lord Miles, who was trained by Joseph, was also scratched from the Kentucky Derby. 

Churchill Downs President and COO Bill Mudd stated that the suspension was imposed due to concerns about the condition of Joseph's horses and until the details are analyzed and understood. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the horses' deaths, as well as the deaths of two other horses in the past week. These incidents have cast a pall over Churchill Downs as the Kentucky Derby approaches.

Mike Repole, co-owner of Forte, expressed sadness about the tragic deaths of the horses, calling it the worst part of the sport. Meanwhile, trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. confirmed that he was questioned by investigators from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and Churchill Downs, but no evidence of wrongdoing was found. 

Joseph was granted permission by KHRC to withdraw five horses from upcoming races as a precautionary measure. He also revealed that he had his barn examined, his horses' medical records reviewed, and their blood samples taken, which all showed nothing unusual. In addition, the horses' feed, hay, straw, and supplements were inspected. Despite the two recent horse deaths, Joseph had planned to enter Lord Miles into the Kentucky Derby, who had arrived from Florida, while the two dead horses were located at Keeneland in Lexington.

These deaths are the first for Joseph, who began training in Florida in 2011 after previously training in Barbados. He expressed the emotional impact of the situation, saying, "It crushes you. It knocks your confidence, it makes you doubt everything." However, Joseph also emphasized the importance of facing the situation head-on and finding a solution. 

On the same day, two horses, including Derby entrant Verifying, dumped their exercise riders during on-track training, but neither rider was injured. In addition to Joseph's horses, Wild On Ice and Take Charge Briana suffered musculoskeletal injuries during training or racing at Churchill Downs and were euthanized. The initial necropsy on Joseph's horse did not reveal a cause of death, leaving them in a state of uncertainty. Verifying getting loose on the track during training also caused alarm for spectators, but the colt was caught and the exercise rider dislocated his shoulder.


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