The owner of Santa Anita Park set up a fund Friday to help pay for hospital and rehabilitative costs stemming from the Lilac Fire in northern San Diego County, which killed about 25 horses and left owners and trainers searching for missing horses a day after the blaze swept through the San Luis Rey Downs Training Center.
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More than $203,000 had been raised within five hours of the fund — Thoroughbred Care — being set up on GoFundMe by The Stronach Group in conjunction with Santa Anita Park and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
The money will be used for feed, bedding, blankets, medical bills, housing and other essential amenities needed for the horses, according to Santa Anita Park.
The Arcadia racetrack has also launched a drive for clothing and supplies for dozens of stable workers who were forced to flee from the fire. Donations can be dropped off at the stable gate, with daily trips expected to be made to Del Mar to drop off supplies, according to a tweet from Santa Anita.
Many of the horses evacuated from San Luis Rey were taken 35 miles to the Del Mar racetrack, where they were being housed and cared for by racetrack personnel and a team of volunteers.
Supplies including blankets, lead ropes and halters, feed, shavings, hooks and clips and muck buckets were needed for the horses, and clothing, gloves, toiletries, air mattresses and blankets and bedding were needed for workers, according to an online posting from the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
The California Horse Racing Board said individuals at San Luis Rey risked their lives by trying to free the horses from their stalls and herd them into the safer infield area and training track.
One worker, Leo Tapia, documented his efforts on Facebook to try to release horses at the center as the fire neared and was being lauded on social media as a hero.
Meanwhile, workers and volunteers at Del Mar and nearby ranches that had taken in horses from San Luis Rey were still working to identify some of the equines as some continued to search for missing horses and others made grim discoveries.
LRF Racing Club, which lost its 2-year-old colt Oddsmaker in the fire, announced on Twitter that one of its 4-year-old filies, Riri, was still “unaccounted for,” then later posted the bleak news that they had “lost a 2nd horse.”
“She was tiny and mighty and we will miss her greatly,” LRF Racing Club wrote in the subsequent tweet, which thanked those who had “risked their lives for our horses.”
Harris D. Auerbach initially tweeted that there was “still no word” on the whereabouts of the 4-year-old colt Puig after the blaze, then tweeted less than a half-hour later, “Unfortunately Puig did not make it and perished in the Lilac Fire at San Luis Rey Downs. RIP handsome boy. I am completely gutted.”
But Eclipse Thoroughbred’s missing filly, Onassis, turned up at Del Mar on Thursday night.
Eclipse’s president, Aron Wellman, posted his own first-hand account online of finding the filly after he headed to Del Mar to help the equine evacuees and “resigned myself to refraining from the selfish mission of finding the one horse Eclipse had stabled at San Luis Rey to simply being a small part of contributing to the greater good.”
“… I was overcome with emotion and wrapped my arms around her sweaty, hot, veiny and pulsating neck, and draped my body onto her shoulder,” Wellman wrote in the posting on Eclipse Thoroughbred’s website about finding her at Del Mar. “In an almost surreal turn of events, Onassis was there for me. She was reassuring me. She was comforting me. A 2-year-old filly who had been through hell and back and seen and lived pure horror was consoling me.”
He wrote that “there were tears of joy aplenty as trainers, owners and workers were reunited with their horses who could be identified … and, there were tears of sorrow as sad reports trickled in from 1st-hand sources.”
–City News Service
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