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Jun 24, 2011

Churchill Downs to reopen Friday after tornado strike



Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Churchill Downs will reopen on Friday after Thursday's racing card was canceled in the wake of a devastating Wednesday storm that damaged barns, stable areas and living quarters for personnel.

The historic track said the National Weather Service has determined that a tornado touched down in the stable area at the home of the Kentucky Derby, damaging seven barns and the backstretch chapel. The size and strength of the tornado has not yet been determined.

In addition, living accommodations for backstretch workers were damaged. There were no injuries to workers or horses.

Approximately 150 horses have been evacuated to the nearby Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. Churchill Downs is also coordinating with the American Red Cross to provide about 100 track workers with temporary shelter after their quarters were compromised.

"We are incredibly fortunate to have survived last night's tornado without injury to our backstretch human or equine population," said Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery in a statement. "We have a lot to clean up and are coordinating with horsemen, whose barns were affected, on relocation arrangements for horses that may need to be moved off site -- and returned to the track for live racing -- for the remainder of our 2011 spring meet. We met with horsemen today for an update on clean-up efforts and have their support to resume live racing tomorrow with our Downs After Dark program. We will be prepared to receive horses shipping into Churchill Downs for [Friday's] race card."

The track's spring meet ends July 4.

A fundraiser, "Pony up for Charity," which had already been scheduled for Friday, will help raise money for the backstretch storm victims.

"Some horsemen lost equipment and feed, and many backstretch workers' living accommodations were damaged or compromised by the storm," Flanery added. "We are hoping our guests will give generously to help those in our extended racing family that have immediate needs due to the storm."

Flanery added that the clubhouse and grandstand areas, as well as the iconic Twin Spires structure that towers over the track, were not damaged by the storm.

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