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Ranch-Hands Race to Free 500 Thoroughbred Horses Amid California Wildfires

2 minute read

Extraordinary footage shows ranch-hands and volunteers fighting to rescue hundreds of racehorses from eight barns which set alight at the San Luis Rey Downs training center in Bonsall, California.

The video, shared publicly on Facebook by user Leo Tapia, shows horses galloping away from growing fires and overwhelming smoke. The region had been hit by the wildfires which have destroyed hundreds of structures and caused thousands of residents to evacuate across the state this week.

In a statement, the California Horse Racing Board estimated that approximately 25 horses perished in the fire, out of nearly 500 who were stabled at the training center. The statement added that individuals working at the San Luis Rey Downs center had “risked their lives in efforts to free the horses from their stalls and herd them into the safer infield area and training track.”

Several horses were evacuated before authorities said conditions were too unsafe for vehicles to enter the center to pick up the remaining horses. Then, when vans could enter the facility again, most of the remaining horses were taken 35 miles away to the Del Mar Racetrack where they were cared for.

The statement added that the Los Alamitos Race Course, a horse racing track in Cypress, CA, cancelled its Friday afternoon racing program out of respect for the horses who perished in the fires, and people who were involved in helping them escape.

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Write to Kate Samuelson at kate.samuelson@time.com