By T. D. Thornton
The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) has revised upward, from 25 to 46, the number of equine deaths from the still-uncontained wildfire that engulfed eight barns at San Luis Rey Downs training center in Bonsall, California Dec. 7.
Mike Marten, the CHRB’s public information officer, cautioned that the 46 deaths represent a working number until every single horse that was stabled at San Luis Rey can be definitively accounted for.
“We’ve been delaying putting out a number because we want to put out a final number,” Marten said via phone on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time. “But we understand the public’s desire to know, so we’re giving out the confirmed count right now of 46 deaths.
“What complicates it is there are still some missing horses whose status is unknown,” Marten said. “For example, some horses, which we believe to be a small number, trampled down a fence and escaped into the hills. Until every single horse is located, this has to be an estimated number.”
Marten said the task of locating these animals is complicated by the lay of the land in northern San Diego County.
“It’s a lot of hills and brush and ‘rugged’ would be the word to describe it,” Marten said. “It’s open, undeveloped area beyond some houses in the immediate area of the training facility. So you can certainly imagine horses getting into that area and being difficult to find.”
According to the Press-Enterprise, a news service local to the region where the so-called Lilac Fire is now considered 20% contained, the blaze has consumed 105 structures since Thursday. An estimated 10,000 peocple were evacuated at one point, and 900 people were displaced to fire shelters.
CALIFORNIA CHROME SEASON ADDED TO FUND
A no-guarantee season to California Chrome has been donated to the effort announced yesterday in the TDN to help the backstretch workers most affected by the fires in California. The season is being donated by Taylor Made Farm and the California Chrome syndicate. “California Chrome was always called `the People’s Horse,’ said Taylor Made Farm’s President and CEO Duncan Taylor, “so we only thought it fitting that the funds raised from this season donation would help the people affected by this tragedy.” Bidding will close Thursday, and is available by going to: http://www.thoroughbredlifestyle.com/signup
Taylor said that Taylor Made and the syndicate will make the money available immediately, even before the funds have been collected, in order that the funds get to those workers in need as soon as possible.
Update on Fund Donations…
The initiative from two anonymous horsemen announced in yesterday’s TDN will now be handled through the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America’s Southern California council.
And note that the funds are for the San Luis Rey backstretch workers fund.
Checks, also noting the San Luis Rey backstretch fund, may be mailed to:
Race Track Chaplaincy of California
c/o 1st Advantage Business Solutions Inc.
P. O. Box 2008
Downey, Ca. 90241
Chaplain Mark Dunn has been purchasing bedding, clothing, food, sleeping bags, blankets and pillows to meet immediate needs.
The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association is also coordinating donations to go to the fund.
NYTHA JOINS THE EFFORT TO AID SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSEMEN AND HORSES
The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association will make an immediate donation of $10,000 on behalf of the victims of the San Luis Rey Downs fire, and has pledged to contribute additional funds for those affected by this devastating event. The initial donation will go to the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation, Inc.
“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.”
“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,” added Joseph Appelbaum, who will take over as NYTHA president Dec. 12. “The new NYTHA Board will have its first meeting this week, and this will be at the top of the agenda.”