The composition of the Kentucky Derby (G1) field changed three times on Thursday. First, Practical Move was withdrawn due to a temperature. Then Lord Miles was ordered scratched and trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. suspended indefinitely. The first two-also eligibles, Cyclone Mischief and Mandarin Hero, accordingly drew into the field for Saturday’s Run for the Roses. Finally on Thursday night, Continuar was removed by trainer Yoshito Yahagi, allowing the final also-eligible, King Russell, to get his chance.
Speculation about Lord Miles’s status had been swirling since two horses trained by Joseph collapsed and died immediately after racing at Churchill Downs. Parents Pride and Chasing Artie succumbed on Saturday and Tuesday, respectively, sparking both dismay and concern.
In response on Thursday, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) ordered the scratching of all Joseph trainees, and Churchill Downs Inc. announced the trainer’s indefinite suspension until further notice.
“The suspension prohibits Joseph, or any trainer directly or indirectly employed by Joseph, from entering horses in races or applying for stall occupancy at all CDI-owned racetracks,” according to the press release.
“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,” said Bill Mudd, President and Chief Operating Officer of CDI.
“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.”
Here is the statement from the KHRC and Board of Stewards:
“For the betterment of racing, the health and welfare of our equine athletes, and the safety of our jockeys, all horses trained by trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. are scratched effective immediately and until further notice. This action is taken after consultation with Mr. Joseph, and includes Lord Miles who was entered into the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby.”
Ray Perry, Secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet, and Jonathan Rabinowitz, Chairman of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, issued a joint statement included in the KHRC release:
“Kentucky is committed to being the global leader in safety and integrity of horse racing. We fully support the stewards’ actions today to ensure the safety of our equine and human athletes while an investigation is ongoing into the unusual circumstances surrounding these tragic fatalities.”
Lord Miles, who sprang a 59-1 upset in the Wood Memorial (G2), was listed as a 30-1 chance on the morning line.
The news on Practical Move came earlier in the afternoon, when trainer Tim Yakteen confirmed to Churchill that the colt had spiked a fever. The Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner, pegged at 10-1 on the morning line, had attracted notice for a lighter training regimen than his stablemate Reincarnate in recent days.
Cyclone Mischief is the third entrant for Albaugh Family Stables. The 30-1 chance is co-owned by Castleton Lyons. Albaugh, the sole owner of Angel of Empire, also has Jace’s Road in partnership with West Point Thoroughbreds. Mandarin Hero joins fellow Japanese runner Derma Sotogake in the starting gate.
Cyclone Mischief (no. 21), Mandarin Hero (no. 22), and King Russell (no. 23) will retain their program numbers while filling the outside three post positions. Practical Move had been in post 10, so horses drawn outside of him will move in one spot (through post 17). Cyclone Mischief will break from post 18. Lord Miles had been in post 19, and Continuar in post 20, so Mandarin Hero and King Russell will slot into their positions.
Continuar had accepted an invitation via the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Yahagi offered comments on his decision in a Churchill release:
“After evaluating the colt upon my arrival, I feel that he has not been able to reach the peak fitness required to take on a race as tough as the Kentucky Derby. Considering the future of the horse and the fact that we cannot show the horse’s true ability in his current state, we have decided to scratch Continuar from the Kentucky Derby.
“I am very sorry that I cannot participate in the world’s number one horse racing festival, however I sincerely hope to return to the Derby in the future. I want to thank everyone who has supported Continuar and Yahagi Stable on this journey.”