July 25, 2024

How you can help those affected by Lilac Fire at San Luis Rey Downs

San Luis Rey's displaced horses and grooms are in need of help after the Lilac Fire (Photo courtesy of Del Mar via Twitter)

The racing community is rallying to help after Thursday’s Lilac Fire devastated the San Luis Rey Downs Training Center, and you can join the efforts to address the needs of displaced horses and backstretch workers.

Del Mar and Santa Anita have welcomed almost 500 horses evacuated from San Luis Rey, where at least eight barns were burned down as the fast-moving wildfire hit the facility. Dozens of horses perished, as many as 46 at last report by The Blood-Horse’s Jeremy Balan on Saturday, and trainers Martine Bellocq and Joe Herrick have been hospitalized with burns.

A GoFundMe account has been established by the The Stronach Group, parent company of San Luis Rey Training Center and Santa Anita, to assist with the wide array of needs including hospital and rehabilitative costs: https://www.gofundme.com/thoroughbredcare.

“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.”

Santa Anita is conducting a clothing and blanket/bedding drive for the horses’ caretakers. The drop-off point is Santa Anita’s Association Gate, accessible from Gate 8 off Baldwin Avenue.

Del Mar, also involved in the official GoFundMe effort, lists specific items item needed on its donation page: https://www.dmtc.com/fire-evacuation

“We’re here to help when a tragic situation like this presents itself,” Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s President Joe Harper said. “With aid from our landlord, the 22nd District Agricultural Association, we’re going to begin serving as a training center tomorrow (Saturday) 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.”

To help Bellocq, who is reportedly in an induced coma, visit the GoFundMe page set up on her behalf: https://www.gofundme.com/rallyformartinebellocq

The American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Equine Disaster Relief Fund offers another way to help, and its page includes further links to “credible organizations” caring for horses and their people affected by the Lilac Fire.

Coolmore and Mike Repole are putting up for bids a No Guarantee 2018 season to Uncle Mo, with proceeds earmarked for the Horses First Fund founded by LNJ Foxwoods and administered by the Thoroughbred Charities of America.

All bids should be submitted in writing to Ashford Stud’s Adrian Mansergh Wallace (adrianmw@coolmore.com, 859-327-8302) and cc’d to Thoroughbred Daily News’ Gary King (garyking@thetdn.com) by Wednesday, December 13, at 5 p.m. (ET).

“Everyone at Coolmore has been moved by what we have seen happen in Southern California,” Coolmore America General Manager Dermot Ryan said, “and we hope by donating this season we will be able to provide some comfort to those who need it most.”

Taylor Made and the California Chrome syndicate likewise are donating a No Guarantee season to California Chrome, with bidding (to close at noon ET on December 14) via http://www.thoroughbredlifestyle.com/signup/. You can watch the bidding progress at http://www.thoroughbredlifestyle.com/product/california-chrome-stallion-season-auction/.

The Chrome proceeds will go to the California Backstretch Fund created by Thoroughbred Daily News, c/o Sue Finley, TDN 60 Broad Street, Suite 100, Red Bank, NJ 07701.

Stonestreet Stables announced a $10,000 donation to the Horses First Fund, plus 10% of purse earnings for the next 10 days. The $10,000 figure was soon matched by Keeneland, LNJ Foxwoods, Rick Gold of Little Red Feather Racing (in memory of their two-year-old Oddsmaker who died in the fire), the Lavin Family Foundation, Sagamore Farm, e5 Racing, and Machmer Hall, among others.

The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association likewise made an initial donation of $10,000 to the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation — http://cthfcares.org/

“It is truly amazing how the racing community comes together in times of tragedy,” retiring NYTHA President Rick Violette Jr. said. “The scenes and stories from San Luis Rey Downs have been heart-wrenching, and we want the horsemen in California to know that we are here to help in any way we can.”

Joseph Appelbaum, the incoming NYTHA president as of December 12, commented that contributions will continue in the future.

“We know there is great demand for funding right now, but that there will also be horsemen and horses in need of assistance for months to come,” Appelbaum noted.

Among other individual efforts, jockey Rajiv Maragh will contribute 5% of his total purse earnings from Saturday through December 17 to support those affected by the fire. Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale has stepped up to provide 65 mattresses and box springs that were delivered to Del Mar Saturday, and Simon Bray reports that owner Kaleem Shah is pledging a personal financial donation of $400 to each displaced groom.

Richard’s Boy, the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up, was found safe (Photo courtesy Matt Nakatani via Twitter)

San Luis Rey Downs Training Center housed hundreds of horses from a number of well-known trainers, including Peter Miller, Richard Mandella, Doug O’Neill, Cliff Sise, Mark Glatt, Richard Baltas, and Adam Kitchingman. Trainer Scott Hansen was particularly hard hit in the inferno, losing 15 of his horses according to Daily Racing Form‘s Jay Privman.

Bedlam ensued as the fire swept in too quickly to evacuate the horses by van, and they had to be let loose in hopes of surviving. Thus many went missing until connections could later try to identify them on the grounds or at nearby facilities.

Miller’s temporarily missing horses included Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) runner-up Richard’s Boy, thankfully found safe at Moody Ranch. His Conquest Typhoon and Conquest Tsunami were also eventually located.

Miller’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint hero, Stormy Liberal, is away in Hong Kong for tonight’s Sprint (G1). His groom, Jose, is with him there, but sadly learned that he lost his home at San Luis Rey. According to Christina Blacker, the Hong Kong Jockey Club (through the good offices of Pat Cummings) is generously helping him in his time of need.

To keep up with the latest on reuniting horses and connections, see the Facebook group Lilac Fire – Lost and Found Horses at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2079032798983047/.

And for more developments, monitor the Twitter hashtag #LilacFire.