Joseph is shattered by deaths, says Lord Miles will go in Derby

Joseph is shattered by deaths, says Lord Miles will go in Derby
Photo: Mark Midland

Louisville, Ky.

Saffie Joseph Jr. said Thursday morning he and his barn staff were cooperating with track management and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to try to get to the bottom of why two of his horses died after races the last five days at Churchill Downs. He also said the deaths would not affect his plans to start Lord Miles on Saturday in Kentucky Derby 2023.

“We don’t have a reason (for the deaths),” Joseph told Horse Racing Nation inside his barn Thursday morning. “We’ve pulled all kinds of bloods on them. All the blood work so far has come back good. The first, preliminary necropsy has shown nothing. There’s a lot of answers that we’re looking for and searching for.”

Parents Pride, a 4-year-old Maclean’s Music filly, died after being pulled up at the top of the stretch in Saturday night’s eighth race. Chasing Artie, a 5-year-old We Miss Artie gelding, collapsed after he finished last in the eighth race Tuesday afternoon. Owned by Ken Ramsey, the two horses were competing in 5 1/2-furlong sprints on a turf course that appeared to have rebounded from a troubled 2022.

“Each horse was transported to the University of Kentucky veterinary-diagnostics lab for complete necropsies,” a Churchill Downs Inc. statement said Thursday. “We continue to press for answers and are working with regulators to conduct swift and thorough investigations.”

“We’re working with the Kentucky racing commission, and we’re searching for ourselves to try to find out what the reason or cause was,” Joseph said. “It could be fluky, but I don’t think so. That’s my belief. You would like to hope so, but it’s a very unique situation. That’s why we’re doing our due diligence.”

Joseph said the two horses had been shipped to Churchill Downs after being stabled in a common barn at Keeneland. That was where 3-year-old fillies Accomplished Girl and Lady Emily Kathryn and 4-year-old gelding Concrete Glory have been housed. Joseph said with the consent of the KHRC, all three were scratched from races Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as a precaution.

“I don’t believe I’ll run any horses from that barn until we can find a reason,” Joseph said. “The other three horses that we have who shipped in for the stakes will still run.”

Those three are Lord Miles, White Abarrio in the Churchill Downs (G1) and Master Piece in the Turf Classic (G1), all Saturday.

“They weren’t in that barn with the other horses,” Joseph said. “They’ve come from a different area.”

Even when was asked as an aside about his strategy for Lord Miles in the Derby, Joseph pivoted back to what happened to Parents Pride and Chasing Artie.

“It’s hard to really think forward right now,” he said. “Mentally, you’ve got to stay very strong. Your No. 1 mission when you race a horse is it comes back safe and sound. When something like that happens, it just shatters you. It knocks your confidence.”

Four horse deaths have been reported at Churchill Downs since last Thursday, when Derby qualifier Wild On Ice was euthanized after being hurt in a workout. The 3-year-old filly Take Charge Briana suffered the same fate after she broke down on the turf in Tuesday’s fifth race.

CDI all but declared that the refurbished turf course was not to blame for any of the deaths, saying in its Wednesday statement, “We have full confidence in our racing surfaces and have been assured by our riders and horsemen that they do as well.”

Asked whether he felt he was being scrutinized fairly in this investigation, Joseph said, “I’m a successful trainer. In life when there’s success, there is going to be scrutiny. There’s going to be questions asked, and here we are to answer the questions. We’re here to do our best. We’re here to take care of the horses.”

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