Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: San Luis Rey Horse Rescuer Leo Tapia ‘Rich In Heart’

“Algunos son pobres de dinero pero ricos de corazon.”

It means: some people are poor in money, but rich in heart.

Leo Tapia shared that quote on his Facebook wall earlier this week, and while he wasn’t referring to himself, the symbolism could not have been more accurate.

A groom at San Luis Rey Downs, Tapia was one of many who watched in horror as flames from the Lilac Fire descended on the training center two weeks ago. Like so many others, he didn’t hesitate to spring into action.

“I was a little bit afraid, but I didn’t let myself think about it,” the 23-year-old said. “I just felt like my heart wanted to get out of my chest. But I couldn’t leave without helping my horses, and those of my friends.”

In a Facebook video that went viral, this young groom gave the world an insider’s perspective as the flames consumed the barn of his employer, Peter Miller. Now with more than 15 million views, the video shows Tapia running into the barn and opening the horse’s webbings, then trying to coerce them to leave their stalls to get out of the path of the encroaching flames.

The video is difficult to watch. Loose Thoroughbreds race around the property, and thick smoke makes it hard to see.

“I wanted people to realize the magnitude of the tragedy,” said Tapia when asked why he recorded the events of the fire.

It’s harder for him to explain why he ran into a burning building. Tapia had only been employed by Peter Miller since September, though he’d been grooming on the racetrack for five years. Before the fire arrived, he and the other grooms were busy trying to spray the entire barn with water to stave off the flames, but it didn’t work. Tapia was warned to get away from the barn when it caught on fire, but he refused to listen.

“I could not leave them behind,” he said. “I would not have been able to forgive myself. They are important to me, and if I didn’t open their doors, no one else was going to. Now I’m happy because all my babies are safe, as well as those of my friends.”

He has received messages of gratitude from around the world — Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and countries across Latin America. 

“It’s really beautiful,” added Tapia. “So many people really care.”

If the GoFundMe page set up in his name by an admirer is any indication, a great number of people believe his actions were worthy of recognition. Some of those people have called him a “hero,” but it isn’t a term he would use to describe himself. He was just reacting to a love of the animals.

“Anybody would have done it,” he insists.

Today, Tapia is in Mexico with his family waiting on his work visa to be renewed so he can return to Del Mar in January. He can’t wait to get back, but he’s content to know he did everything in his power to save the animals he’d come to love over just four months.

Thank you, Leo Tapia.

 

The post Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: San Luis Rey Horse Rescuer Leo Tapia ‘Rich In Heart’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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