Churchill Downs Repairs Track, Barns Following Tuesday's Flood; Training To Resume on Thursday

Aug 05, 2009 by John Asher

Life at Churchill Downs is not yet back to normal, but it’s heading in that direction as repairs to the dirt track, several barns and track offices were underway on Wednesday, one day after a slow-moving storm packing torrential rains flooded the track and left several vehicles either partially or completely submerged in parking lots and on streets around the track.

    Horses evacuated from the track because of rising water remained at a nearby training center on Wednesday and might not return to their stalls at the famed home of the Kentucky Derby for another day or two.  But repair work on the track’s one-mile dirt course went well and veteran Track Superintendent Butch Lehr said regular training over the track would resume on Thursday.

    Lehr estimated that 25 dump truck loads of track materials were dumped on the track’s soggy racing surface during Wednesday’s repair work.  Members of the track maintenance crew worked throughout the day to repair the track and restore more seriously-damaged sections of the racing surface.

    “It was washed-out in places where the water came across the track,” Lehr said.  “We had to use shovels to dig out all that (dirt and mud) from around the drains and pull it out where we could get it with the grader.  I’ve been grading it all day and probably will keep grading until early tonight.”

    Training at Churchill Downs was halted midway through Tuesday’s scheduled four-hour session when the storm hit.  There was no training over the surface on Wednesday.  Horses are scheduled to return to the track on Thursday on the regular 6-10 a.m. (EDT) schedule.

    “We’ve got it in pretty good shape,” Lehr said.  “I think everything will be normal in the morning.”

    Figures on the number of horses evacuated from Churchill Downs were revised by track officials on Wednesday.  Horses were moved from three structures – barns 46, 47 and 48 – as water rose as high as two and a half to three feet in those buildings.  More than 40 horses were moved from those barns because of the rising water, with 22 being evacuated to the nearby Trackside training center off Poplar Level Road and the rest moved to empty stalls in barns that were unaffected by the high water.  

    Efforts to clean and repair the three barns affected by the flood were hampered when those structures lost electrical power.  Power was restored late Wednesday morning, which allowed the placement of fans and blowers in those barns to aid in the drying of the stalls and tack rooms under those shedrows.

    “It looks like the horses at Trackside will spend at least a couple of days over there,” said Ben Huffman, racing secretary of Churchill Downs.  “Those horses are training over that track.”    

    Customers streamed in to Churchill Downs’ Trackside simulcast wagering facility, which opened on schedule at midday Tuesday, and most of the track’s business operations and offices opened on schedule.  Some offices throughout the sprawling facility sustained water damage and repairs were underway in those areas on Wednesday.    
    No injuries were reported to either horses or humans during Tuesday’s flood.

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