Horse trainer Safi Joseph Jr. was suspended indefinitely on Thursday. sudden death Between the two horses during Kentucky Derby week, Churchill Downs Inc. — which owns the racetrack where the Derby takes place — announced Joseph Jr.’s firing in a public statement.
Bill Mudd, president and chief operating officer of Churchill Downs, said, “Given the unexplained sudden death, we have expressed reasonable concern about the condition of his horses and have decided to suspend him indefinitely pending a detailed analysis and understanding.”
The suspension bars Joseph Jr. and his employees from entering horse races or applying to occupy stalls at all racetracks owned by Churchill Downs. The racetrack announced in a statement that it was withdrawing Lord Miles, another horse trained by Joseph Jr., from Saturday’s scheduled race.
This year’s Kentucky Derby week was marred by the deaths of four horses in the span of several days. Two more horses died this week from irreparable injuries, when horses trained by Joseph Jr. died suddenly. Churchill Downs Racetrack called the death “highly unusual” and “completely unacceptable”.
More than 7,200 horses died from racing-related injuries between 2009 and 2021, leading animal welfare activists to condemn what they see as the sport’s potential cruelty. Still, with four deaths in a single Kentucky Derby week that occurs each May in Louisville, Kentucky, owners, trainers and staff are asking questions.
Safi Joseph Jr.’s public record as a horse trainer indicates this is not his first suspension, and this week’s death is also the first time horses under his care have died.
In 2022, two horses trained by Joseph Jr. died during races in New York State, according to the state’s horse fatality database. According to the database, one appeared to have collapsed during a race on November 10, and another was euthanized on August 10 after a leg injury.
In 2023, the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission fined him $500 and suspended him for 15 days after another horse under his care tested positive for gabapentin, according to the racing commission database. Joseph Jr. is appealing the ruling, according to the database.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, long-awaited legislation aimed at regulating racetrack safety as well as anti-doping and drug standards, is set to go into effect on May 22 after a series of delays, the Associated Press reported. Its Antidoping and Medication Control Program will establish consistent rules and standards for testing across states and racetracks.
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