Tornado Hits Churchill Downs, Flattens Barns, Frees Horses

A tornado touched down on the infield at Churchill Downs racetrack last night, damaging seven barns and a chapel, and freeing horses from their stalls at the home of the Kentucky Derby.

Live racing was canceled today at the Louisville, Kentucky, track, which hosted the 137th Derby, the first leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, on May 7, spokesman John Asher said in a telephone interview.

Racing will resume tomorrow and continue through the spring meet that ends July 4, according to an e-mailed release from track officials today.

“Several barns have been damaged, some substantially,” Asher said. “There’s a lot of debris, the power is out. We’re trying to make sure all horses are safe and humans are OK.”

Today’s release said seven barns were damaged, two fewer than originally estimated.

Representatives from the National Weather Service visited the stable area today and determined that the tornado touched down in the barnyard, according to the release. The size and strength of the tornado are yet to be determined, and no injuries to humans or horses were reported.

Track officials arranged for the possible evacuation of about 150 horses to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center today, as well as emergency shelter for 100 stable-area workers whose homes were damaged.

‘Incredibly Fortunate’

“We are incredibly fortunate to have survived last night’s tornado without injury to our backstretch human or equine population,” Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said in the release. “We are hoping our guests will give generously to help those in our extended racing family that have immediate needs due to the storm.”

The tornado touched down about 8 p.m., said Brian Edwards, a meteorologist with Accuweather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

Churchill Downs doesn’t plan to make up today’s canceled races, according to the release.

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