Some news and notes…
Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the deaths of two of his horses at Churchill Downs. Joseph, you surely remember, was made a scapegoat by Churchill (and the industry at large) after Parents Pride and Chasing Artie collapsed and died at the outset of that track’s kill cluster this spring. Joseph was indefinitely suspended and an investigation by the Racing Commission was launched. This, as intended, sent the message that a trainer, and not horseracing itself, was (is) the problem. Now that the media maelstrom (on the Churchill deaths) has subsided, the powers that be thought it was safe to reinstate Joseph, which they did yesterday. Surprise, surprise.
Speaking of Chasing Artie (killed May 2), here are the details just released by the Commission: “While returning to the unsaddling area, the horse began to stagger and he collapsed. Upon the quick arrival of the KHRC veterinarians, the horse was agonal and unresponsive. After attempts to stimulate the horse failed, the horse was humanely euthanized.” Notice how they added “quick,” lest we think the vets were asleep on the job. While the necropsy did not identify a specific cause of death, it did note “evidence of previous pulmonary hemorrhage,” and, of course, the ubiquitous “stomach ulceration.”
And finally, word comes that a harness driver was injured – multiple broken ribs and brain bleeding – at a county fair in Illinois Thursday. But this was not just any driver, for you see the injured party is 86-year-old Robert “Cannonball” Decker (below). Yes, you read that right – 86 years old. Now, while I of course wish him no ill will (apparently, he’s in stable condition), I have to ask: Doesn’t this man have anything better to do in his twilight years than whip and otherwise abuse horses? Unbelievable. By the way, nothing on the horse, who, I have to believe, was also injured, if not killed.