May 5, 2023 3 min read


Safety Concerns Raised After Four Horses Die Ahead of Kentucky Derby

Two of the horses were trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., whose Derby entrant, Lord Miles, was thrown out of the race on Thursday evening by state stewards

Four horses have died in the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby, sparking concerns about the safety of the sport. 

Horse Deaths at Churchill Downs Spark Investigation and Suspension

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission launched an investigation into the causes of all four deaths. Two of Saffie Joseph Jr.’s horses collapsed and died without explanation, while earlier this week, two racehorses, Take Charge Briana and Wild On Ice, trained by Wayne Lukas and Joel Marr, respectively, had to be euthanized due to leg injuries sustained while on the track in Louisville.

After the two deaths, Joseph was suspended while his horse Lord Miles was banned from all tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc. following a hard line set by the track in 2021 after Bob Baffert’s horse, Medina Spirit, failed a drug test and was disqualified from the Derby. 

Churchill Downs Inc.’s president and chief operating officer, Bill Mudd, stated regarding the deaths of Joseph’s horses: “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. 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.”

The deaths have come at a time when horse racing is facing an existential threat due to declining interest in gambling on the sport and growing opposition from animal rights activists.

Deaths at Kentucky Derby Renew Concerns Over Horse Racing Safety

The recent deaths of horses at the Kentucky Derby are expected to rekindle concerns over racehorse safety, adding to the industry’s existing issues with doping scandals, declining fan interest, and competition from other forms of sports gambling.

The dirt and turf courses at Churchill Downs have been examined by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which has deemed them to be safe. Necropsies will be performed on the horses, and hair and blood samples have been taken for laboratory examinations.

The New York Times reported that Joseph, who manages a herd of nearly 4,000 equines, expressed profound grief over the loss of his two horses, stating that the likelihood of such an occurrence happening twice is virtually impossible, estimated at trillions to one odds. He added that it defies comprehension.

The deaths of the four horses are a reminder that horse racing must do more to ensure the safety of the animals that make the sport possible. It remains to be seen how the industry will respond to this latest tragedy and whether it can win back public trust and support.


Silvia has dabbled in all sorts of writing – from content writing for social media to movie scripts. She has a Bachelor's in Screenwriting and experience in marketing and producing documentary films. With her background as a customer support agent within the gambling industry, she brings valuable insight to the Gambling News writers’ team.

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