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Camarero, San Luis Rey responders to get Special Eclipse Award

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Jay Hovdey
Human responders to the devastating wildfire at San Luis Rey Downs training center will share a Special Eclipse Award with those who helped horses in Puerto Rico after a hurricane.

The administrators of the Eclipse Awards have voted to issue a Special Eclipse Award this year to the people who responded to two disasters affecting the racing community in 2017 – the hurricane in September that put more than 800 horses at risk in Puerto Rico, and the wildfire in December that killed 46 horses at San Luis Rey Downs training center.

The administrators said in a press release that they were issuing the Special Eclipse “in recognition of countless acts of heroism, bravery, and benevolence in the face of tragedy.” Unlike other Eclipse Awards, the Special Eclipse is not issued every year and was last issued in 2014 to recognize Old Friends Farm, the retirement organization.

The Award will be presented to “representatives” of the two relief efforts at the Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony on Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park in south Florida.

The release said that Kelley Stobie and Shelley Blodgett of Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare would represent “countless individuals that participated in the relief effort” in Puerto Rico. Stobie and Blodgett have been credited with calling attention to the dire circumstances at Hipódromo Camarero, Puerto Rico’s only sanctioned racetrack. Stobie, who lives in Puerto Rico, also was one of the first responders at the track, and she remains active in caring for the horses there.

The release said that major support for the effort was provided by Thoroughbred Charities of America, The Jockey Club, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and Ranch Aid, a FEMA-appointed organization. The release also cited more than a dozen other organizations and individuals that provided care to the Puerto Rico horses.

In California, a brush fire that started east of San Luis Rey Downs training center on Dec. 7 quickly spread and then consumed portions of the property. Stable staff and horsemen attempted to save as many horses as possible, in most cases by freeing the horses from their stalls and allowing them to escape. Forty-six horses died in the fire.

The rescue efforts and the aftermath generated countless stories of individual and collective sacrifice, reaching from the entire Southern California equine community to individuals nationwide who donated money and time. The release quoted San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Bryce Miller writing, “A fire led to a heartwarming flood.”

The administrators also announced Friday that a second Special Eclipse will be awarded to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association for its efforts in getting tax changes implemented last year that are highly beneficial to horseplayers. The NTRA led the effort for nearly 10 years, and the tax changes are already being credited for leading to a slight increase in handle at the end of last year.

“The NTRA accepts this award on behalf of the many industry organizations and thousands of horseplayers who supported the effort,” NTRA president Alex Waldrop said.

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