Los Alamitos Racetrack canceled Friday's eight-race thoroughbred program on Thursday night due to the Lila fire in San Diego County that caused the death of an unknown number of horses at the San Luis Rey Downs training center in Bonsall.
Several Southland coaches have stable horses in San Luis Rey, which is home to around 400-500 horses. According to Jeremy Balan of The Blood-Horse, Philip D & # 39; Amato, Clifford Sise, Scott Hansen, Dan Dunham and Sam Scolamieri were among the local trainers who lost horses in the fire.
Billy Koch, founder and managing partner of Little The Red Feather Racing club told The Blood-Horse that they lost Oddsmaker, their best 2-year-old son, in the fire. Oddsmaker was trained by D & # 39; Amato.
"I do not know what to do with me … total devastation," Koch said.
Evacuation efforts for horses housed in San Luis Rey began in the afternoon and as many as 50 had been transported 35 miles south of Del Mar racecourse. Many were still running free inside the facility after being released when the flames that moved quickly began to burn the barns.
"Here are horses running loose," Sise told the publication of the race. "People have lost horses, barns have burned down, it just happened so fast that (we) had to do something."
Sise tried to rescue some of the horses from Hansen's burning barn.
"I heard them scream," he said. "So I could remove some of the webbing, but the fire was so bad that I could not reach them all."
Leandro Mora, assistant coach Doug O & # 39; Neill, told a chilling story that summed up a tragic day.
"I saw two horses burned to death, running on fire," he said. "Everyone ran around so wild." We saw a failure, probably his hip, to run, and then we discovered that he had been defeated.
"I never thought in my life that I would see something like that".
Mora said: "Neill's horse row at San Luis Rey was fine, and coaches Richard Mandella, Adam Kitchingman and Richard Baltas also escaped unscathed.
Dunham told The Blood-Horse that some horses were found dead on the track during efforts to round up loose horses.He thinks they probably died from smoke inhalation.
"No one knows where many (loose horses) ended up," Dunham said. "It's going to be a while before they all find their horses. "There were 20 vans there with us and we had just grabbed horses and put them on."
The narrow community of horses was clearly shaken.
"This is a tragic blow for California's thoroughbred racing industry and one of great pain for everyone," said Jack Liebau, vice president of the Los Alamitos Racing Association. "We express our sympathy to the owners, trainers and caretakers of the horses that were victims of this tragic event, and we greet those who so valiantly tried to safeguard horses at San Luis Rey Downs in the face of the rapidly approaching fire, as well as those who transported horses to Del Mar in dangerous conditions and those who went to Del Mar to help the horses that moved there. "
Los Alamitos will be open for simultaneous bets during the day on Friday. Los Alamitos racecourse will also remain open for its horse quarter night races. The thoroughbred meeting is scheduled to resume on Saturday.