Churchill Downs hit by confirmed tornado


Posted on June 22, 2011 at 11:44 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 11:26 PM

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View photos of damage from Wednesday's storm


Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - Because of extensive tornado damage, many horses were evacuated from Churchill Downs.

Debris was swirling around in a funnel cloud in video that WHAS11 News captured near the Watterson Expressway.

There was much devastation at the backside. It's something they've never seen since they opened in 1875.

Despite all the damage, there were heroic stories of hope and courage.

The National Weather Service confirmed it was a twister that touched down.

Steve Margolis' stables housed 24 horses like "Bouquet Booth" and "Cash Refund."

They got the call from a foreman last night, a gas line broke by their barn.

"My mouth went so dry because I thought, I said, oh God that's our barn. I thought we were going to find bodies of people. You know, forget the horses. Our employees, look it's gone," said Susan

Margolis who is the wife of horse trainer Steve Margolis.

"Happy that the people that were living in the rooms here along with the horses weren't injured. It's a miracle, yeah," said Steve Margolis.

About 100 stable workers and 200 horses were displaced from the Backside but there was not ascratch on them.        

People, including Chaplain Ken Boehm, rushed to grab shanks to get the animals out.

"Literally it was, find an empty stall and a safe barn and move this horse and anyone with a shank we were sending around," said Ken Boehm, who is the Churchill Downs chaplan.

Meanwhile, the tornado tore off part of his chapel roof.

SKY 11 pictures showed the sheer power of Mother Nature.

It's something Churchill Downs has never felt in its 137 years.

Quite a disturbing image compared to the races people are used to seeing on the track which remained intact.

Horses walked next to broken shingles and debris as damage control and cleanup began.

"It's pretty unrealistic that I'm raking up and it's not something to do with the horses for the first time in a long time," said Trey Gossom, who worked to clean the grounds.

The horses are at private farms, other Backside stables or the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center while the Red Cross helped find shelter for people.

They hope to re-open the track by Friday at the earliest. The Frontside, track and Twin Spires have no damage.

LG & E crews are restoring power.

Check power outages here

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