San Luis Rey Fire: Industry Bands Together With Funding, Supplies, Volunteers

As reports come in from Southern California in the wake of Saturday’s devastating fire at San Luis Rey Downs, CHRB chairman Chuck Winner told that the equine death toll may number more than 40 horses. Eight of the facility’s barns burned, and on Friday morning there were a reported 250 horses on the grounds at Del Mar from San Luis Rey; it is believed that approximately 450 horses were on the facility at the time of the fire.

“This is a horrific situation and everybody is trying to pitch-in and do whatever can be done to make things better,” said Tim Ritvo, Chief Operating Officer of The Stronach Group. “The outpouring of support from inside and outside of our industry has been truly heartwarming. Together, we’ll get through this.”

Del Mar had a total of approximately 800 four-legged animals on the property on Friday afternoon, including a large number of pleasure horses. Plans are being made to open the racetrack for training as early as this weekend.

Other horses from San Luis Rey are reported to have been evacuated to nearby farms.

“We’re here to help when a tragic situation like this presents itself,” said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s president Joe Harper. “With aid from our landlord, the 22nd District Agricultural Association, we’re going to begin serving as a training center tomorrow morning and will continue on that path for the immediate future as our industry puts the pieces back together again. The Del Mar Fairgrounds is a multi-use facility and we do have constraints on just how far we can go with this, but for the next several weeks, or months, Del Mar will be holding training for our Southern California horsemen.”

Following a cancellation of live daytime racing today, the Southern California racing agenda is set to return to normal on Saturday, as Los Alamitos will host their regularly scheduled Thoroughbred program, beginning with first post time at 12:30 p.m.

The GoFundMe account set up by the Stronach Group to aid victims of the fire has raised nearly $350,000.

Clothing items, as well as bedding and blankets for displaced workers, can be left at Santa Anita’s Association Gate, accessible via Gate 8 off of Baldwin Ave. Debby Baltas has been instrumental in providing care for the backstretch workers.

Early on Friday afternoon, Stonestreet Stable took to Twitter to challenge other stables to match their $10,000 donation to the Thoroughbred Charities of America’s Horses First Fund. Among those to publicly announced a matching donation were LNJ Foxwoods, Rick Gold, hockey player Erik Johnson, the Lavin Family Foundation, Sagamore Racing, and Keeneland.

Coolmore stud announced that they would donate a no-guarantee season to Uncle Mo. All bids should be submitted in writing through the sales team at Ashford Stud (Adrian Mansergh-Wallace (, 859-327-8302) and copy Gary King ( by Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 5:00 p.m. eastern. Proceeds raised will be donated to the horsemen and horses affected by the tragedy through the Horses First Fund administered by the Thoroughbred Charities Of America and founded by LNJ Foxwoods.

Social media has also been key in helping owners and trainers to identify missing horses. Matt Nakatani found Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up Richard’s Boy at Moody Ranch, and notified racing manager Brian Trump via Twitter. Conquest Typhoon has also been found safe.

Trainer Scott Hansen is reported to have lost 15 of his 30 horses in the Lilac fire. The Little Red Feather Racing Club lost two horses. Phil D’Amato lost two horses as well. Trainer Martine Bellocq, now hospitalized and in an induced coma to treat burns over 50 percent of her body, lost three of six trainees. Trainer Joe Herrick has also been hospitalized with third-degree burns.

Eclipse Thoroughbred’s Aron Wellman was on hand at Del Mar on Thursday, working hand-in-hand with volunteers to identify and care for the rescued horses.

“For those of us who witnessed the unified camaraderie which took place last night and will undoubtedly need to continue for however long it takes to heal from yesterday’s catastrophe, one can only be inspired by the HORSES and the PEOPLE,” he wrote in his blog. “It is a remarkably communal industry that is somehow equally competitive and supportive in unison.”

“It’s like puzzle pieces,” owner Jeff Bloom told “There were so many incredible people who helped. People with mom-and-pop vans, vans you wouldn’t normally put a horse in, but who cares? You just wanted to get them out of there and down here. The horses would get off the trailers, and some would have no halters, no tags, some don’t have tattoos yet.”

Lexington’s KBC Horse Supply store and Hagyard Medical Center will be sending supplies in partnership with an airplane provided by Spendthrift Farm‘s B. Wayne Hughes.

Additionally, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and The Stronach Group, owners of San Luis Rey Downs, have established a Go Fund Me account to aid those impacted by the fire at the training facility. It can be accessed at

Further, the American Association of Equine Practitioners also has website for those wishing to donate toward relief. It is

For those needing more information about the evacuation situation at Del Mar, the main Fairgrounds phone number is the one to call. It is (858) 755-1161.

Anyone interested in ordering items through Amazon to aid the displaced horses and people may refer to this Amazon Wish List, which has been set up by Kentucky-based college student Julie Witt together with California native Bob Feld. Items in the list will be deliverable to Feld’s address in California, and he has coordinated with Witt to bring those supplies to Del Mar.

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