Racing Community Honors Lilac Fire Responders Who Risked Lives to Save Horses

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Barbara Laurito of Bonsall comforts her horse Wyoming at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Photo by Chris Stone

The organizers of the thoroughbred racing Eclipse Awards announced Friday that those who rushed into action when the Lilac Fire burned through the San Luis Rey Downs Training Center will receive a special honor.

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The Special Eclipse Awards will be given to those who assisted at the Bonsall racetrack during the December fire that claimed the lives of 46 horses.

Responders to another natural disaster, Hurricane Maria, will also be lauded. The hurricane that ravaged Puerto Rico in September left 800 horses stranded with limited food and water at Hipopdromo Camarero, according to the award organizers.

“The Special Award honors extraordinary service, individual achievements in, or contributions to the sport of thoroughbred racing,” organizers said.

Several horse trainers risked their lives to save animals when the Lilac Fire roared through San Luis Rey in December. As many as 450 horses were housed there.

Among them was Martine Bellocq who raced into a burning barn in an attempt to save a 2-year-old horse.

The trainer caught fire and was unable to save the colt. Manuel Cavario, another trainer, saw Bellocq engulfed in flames and snuffed them out with a blanket.

Bellocq suffered third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body and was unable to rescue the colt. She remains in a medically induced coma at UC San Diego Medical Center, according to award organizers.

“As soon as they finish the skin grafts and all that, she may pick up some momentum,” Pierre Bellocq Jr., Bellocq’s husband, told Blood-Horse magazine. “She’s still on a respirator most of the time and there are tubes everywhere, but she can hear us. We’re going to keep talking to her and encouraging her.”

Representatives from the San Luis Rey relief efforts will attend the awards dinner on Jan. 25 in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

The Eclipse Awards are given each year to horses and people who dominate the industry.

The ceremony is presented by Daily Racing Form, Breeders’ Cup, The Stronach Group, National Thoroughbred Racing Association and National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.

—City News Service

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