Fire Kills 27 Horses at Thoroughbred Training Facility

A barn fire that broke out the morning of Nov. 20 killed 27 horses at Riverside Downs, a former harness track that is being used as a Thoroughbred training and boarding facility in northern Henderson County, Ky.

Bill Shaw, chief of the Baskett volunteer fire department, said emergency dispatchers were called to the scene at around 4:30 a.m. EST., according to the Evansville Courier. Though no cause or origin of the fire has been determined, arson is not suspected, the newspaper reported.

Four horses, three of which were rescued by their owner, fled the barn before it was engulfed in flames, Shaw said. The fourth horse suffered some burns, but managed to escape on its own. Two veterinarians were called in to treat the horses that were spared from the fire.

Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, was on his way to survey the scene at about 10:30 a.m. Maline told The Blood-Horse trainers Bobby Larue, Benjie Larue, Jerry Joe Greenwell, Shirley Greene, Kim Nesbitt, Kenny Miller, and Billy Stinson all lost horses in the fire.

Maline said the horses had been running at tracks in surrounding areas, such as Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Indiana, Churchill Downs in Kentucky, and Beulah Park in Ohio. One of the horses had just won two races at Hoosier Park. Another horse, who placed in a Hoosier race the night of Nov. 19, was brought back to its stall at about 2 a.m. but perished in the fire just two and a half hours later.

"I talked to the gentleman who runs (Riverside Downs), and he was beyond grief," Maline said. "It's a horrible situation, and this training center has certainly had its share of bad times."

The Nov. 20 fire marks the fourth in the past five years at Riverside Downs. A fire last January killed six horses and caused $70,000 in damage to one of the barns. In December 2003, 22 horses died from a fire that swept through a barn. Both of those fires were thought to be electrical in nature.

The fourth fire, which occurred in November 2005, burned the harness track's old grandstand. Four people were charged with arson for causing that blaze.

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About the Author

Esther Marr

Esther Marr is a staff writer for The Blood-Horse magazine.

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