By Bill Finley
Lord Miles (Curlin), who was scratched from last week's GI Kentucky Derby by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission because he is a member of the Saffie Joseph, Jr. stable, will run next in either the GI Preakness S. or the GI Belmont S., reports owner Peter Vegso. Vegso said the decision would be made after the colt, the longshot winner of the GII Wood Memorial S., has a workout Friday morning.
“We're going to work him on Friday and then decide if we're going to run him in the Preakness or the Belmont,” Vegso said. “I'd be happy with either race. We'll just have to see what the trainer thinks in terms of the horse being ready.”
Entered in the Derby, Lord Miles was put under the microscope when two other horses trained by Joseph died of unknown causes in the days leading up to the race. They were two of seven horses that died prior to the Derby. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission ultimately decided that all of Joseph's horses set to race at Churchill would be scratched.
“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,” read a statement from the Racing Commission.
Shortly after the Commission's announcement, Churchill Downs announced that Joseph had been banned indefinitely from the Churchill family of tracks.
Vegso said he didn't anticipate there being any issue with regulators in Maryland or New York regarding allowing Lord Miles to race.
“I don't think there will be a problem,” he said. “The horse had nothing to do with any of this. I know they are waiting for the results of the necropsies of the horses that passed away for Saffie. There are those two and five others that passed away. But none of that has anything to do with Lord Miles.”
TDN reached out to both 1/ST Racing, which owns Pimlico, and the Maryland Racing Commission, to see if any consideration had been given to not allowing Lord Miles to run in the Preakness. By deadline for this story, the Maryland Racing Commission had not replied.
Aidan Butler, CEO of 1/ST Racing, said a statement regarding Joseph would be released Friday.
Joseph is among the top trainers at 1/ST-owned Gulfstream Park and he ran eight horses there on Saturday. His starters will include Honey Ryder S. winner Honor D Lady (Honor Code).
Vegso was standing behind his trainer, who he felt was treated unfairly in Kentucky.
“He shouldn't have been scratched,” he said. “By doing so they made the assumption that every horse the trainer has had something wrong with it because those two passed away. Saffie was pretty upset about that and he's trying to find out what happened and who did what. They made decisions without having all the information. They took blood tests from the horses and found nothing. They still have the necropsies, but from what I understand that takes a few weeks. So they made decisions without having all the information. That's a lack of ethics. They were just trying to cover their butts.”
Vegso, the original publisher of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, bought his first horse in 1989. Lord Miles was to be his first starter in the Derby.
“I was upset,” he said. “We had been waiting for years to get a horse that would take us to the Kentucky Derby. My family, my daughters, my grandchildren were all there. We chartered a plane and got there. We arrived and then got the news we were scratched. We never heard from Churchill Downs. We only heard from the trainer. I tried calling the stewards and I didn't get any answers out of them. They took away our tickets. The treated us like crap. We were given 18 tickets in a suite and they took them all away.”