Ellis Park plans to honor Marvin Prado and other backstretch workers involved in rescuing six racehorses and one stable pony during a fire in the track's receiving barn last Sunday. They hope to do so during this weekend's races, contingent on the availability of Prado, whose daughter was born two months premature the day after the fire and is still hospitalized.
The barn was engulfed in flames in a matter of 20 minutes and those on the scene say the man of the moment was Prado, with assistance from fellow Kenneally grooms Cristobal Munoz and Estuardo Godoy. Brendan Walsh's grooms Salvador Hernandez and Jose Garcia also were involved, including extricating their stable pony, the retired racehorse Scuba, from the barn.
“They are guys who have been with us a long time,” Kenneally said. “They are good people, so their natural instinct is to try to help. If there's a situation where you're needed, they're the type of people who will jump in and do the right thing.”
Prado noticed the flames while emptying a wheel barrow and yelled to his coworkers. According to those at the scene, Prado jumped into action and one by one retrieved the six racehorses, getting them out by their halters without a lead shank and handing them to his colleagues, who then found empty stalls for the horses.
Prado estimated it took “two or three minutes” to get the six horses out. Five minutes later, he said the barn was completely immersed in flames. Seven fire departments assisted to extinguishing the fire.
Asked later why he went back into the flaming barn, Prado said: “There wasn't any option. The horse had to get out.”
“Racing is a way of life. Taking care of our horses is a way of life,” said Michael Ann Ewing, owner and trainer of Bold and Bossy who was involved in the fire a day after getting loose on the highway. “These guys who stepped in–most of them I've never met–they're heroes. They just dropped everything. Especially those guys who ran into a burning barn without thinking and saved seven horses. Because it could have been really bad.”
“These acts of bravery are a testament to the real folks who represent this industry in largely unseen capacities and actions,” said Ellis Park racing secretary Dan Bork. “To do what they did, to run into a building engulfed in flames–and then go about their business as if nothing ever happened, like what they did wasn't anything out of the ordinary–they're true heroes with their totally selfless acts of courage.