Tragedy Strikes at San Luis Rey Downs
A tragic day at San Luis Rey Downs Thursday has left the Equestrian communities heartbroken as at least 46 horses were killed. The Lilac Fire swept over San Luis Rey Downs, a 500-stall facility and essential cog in California’s horse racing industry. The facility provides training space and horse housing critical to filling fields at Del Mar and Santa Anita, and other California tracks including Los Alamitos and Golden Gate Fields.
Trainers Martine Bellocq and Joe Herrick are being treated for severe burns at the UC San Diego Medical Center, where Bellocq is in a medically induced coma.
Trainer Scott Hansen described the scene and later found out that half of his 30 horses perished: “It’s apocalyptic. Corpses everywhere.”
“San Luis Rey has always been a jewel on the crown of racing here in California. It’s provided enormous benefits, from its location, the full gate, the arenas, the training pool, all of it,” said Jeff Bloom, and owner who trained to become a jockey at San Luis Ray.
“When you’re talking 500 to 600 horses, that’s a significant portion of the inventory in the state. It’s a critical piece to the racing puzzle in Southern California. It’s impossible to know how much damage has been done.”
As of Saturday afternoon, the horse death toll had risen to 46, and the majority of evacuated horses and horsemen have been relocated to Del Mar. Some are also at the Trifecta Equine Athletic Center, a equine rehabilitation center across the street from San Luis Rey. There have been no equine fatalities at Del Mar since it opened for evacuated horses Dec. 7, according to racing secretary David Jerkens.
While racing continued at tracks across the country over the weekend, the hurt has been felt by those in the industry and others that care for the animals and love horses and racing. The joy from days like the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar can also be met with pain and sadness when tragedy strikes the industry and reminds us of all the care and support from within the horse racing community.
The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita and San Luis Rey Downs, and Del Mar set up a gofundme page, which has raised more than $500,000 as the outpouring of support continues.