Los Alamitos Race Course canceled Friday’s eight-race thoroughbred program late Thursday night because of the Lilac Fire in San Diego County that caused the deaths of an unknown number of horses at the San Luis Rey Downs training center in Bonsall.
Several Southland trainers have horses stabled at San Luis Rey, which is home to about 400-500 horses. According to Jeremy Balan of The Blood-Horse, Philip D’Amato, Clifford Sise, Scott Hansen, Dan Dunham and Sam Scolamieri were among the local trainers who lost horses in the fire.
Billy Koch, founder and managing partner of Little Red Feather Racing club, told The Blood-Horse that they lost Oddsmaker, their best 2-year-old, in the blaze. Oddsmaker was trained by D’Amato.
“I don’t know what to do with myself … total devastation,” Koch said.
Evacuation efforts for horses housed at San Luis Rey began in the afternoon and as many as 50 had been transported 35 miles south to Del Mar racetrack. Many were still running free within the facility after being released when fast-moving flames began burning down the barns.
“There are horses running all loose down here,” Sise told the racing publication. “People have lost horses. Barns have burned down. It just happened so fast that (we) had to do something.”
Sise tried to rescue some of the horses from Hansen’s burning barn.
“I heard them screaming,” he said. “So I was able to get the webbing off of some, but the fire was so bad, I couldn’t get to them all.”
Leandro Mora, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill, told a chilling story that summed up a tragic day.
“I saw two horses burn to death, running around on fire,” he said. “They were all just running around so wild. We saw one break down, probably his hip, from running around, and we found out later they put him down.
“I never thought in my life that I’d see something like that.”
Mora said O’Neill’s string of horses at San Luis Rey was largely OK, and trainers Richard Mandella, Adam Kitchingman, and Richard Baltas also escaped largely unscathed.
Dunham told The Blood-Horse some horses were discovered dead on the track during efforts to round up the loose horses. He thinks they probably died from smoke inhalation.
“Nobody knows where a lot of (the loose horses) ended up,” Dunham said. “It’s going to be a while before everyone finds their horses. There were 20 vans in there with us and we were just grabbing horses and putting them in.”
The tight-knit horse racing community was clearly shaken.
“This is a tragic blow to the California Thoroughbred racing industry and of great sorrow to everyone,” said Jack Liebau, the vice-president of the Los Alamitos Racing Association. “We express our sympathy to the owners, trainers and caretakers of the horses victimized by this tragic event. We salute those who so bravely attempted to safeguard horses at San Luis Rey Downs in face of the swiftly approaching fire as well as those who transported horses to Del Mar under hazardous conditions and those who went to Del Mar to aid the horses moved there.”
Los Alamitos will be open for daytime simulcast wagering on Friday. Los Alamitos Race Course will also remain open for its nighttime quarter-horse races. The thoroughbred meet is scheduled to resume Saturday.
Source : http://www.dailynews.com/2017/12/07/los-alamitos-cancels-friday-thoroughbred-races-after-fires-claim-horses-at-san-luis-rey-downs/