Famed racetrack Churchill Downs badly damaged by storm

Racehorse trainer William "Jinks" Fires said that after Wednesday night's tornado at Churchill Downs, he might change the spelling of his nickname to "Jinx."

Fires trained Arkansas Derby winner and Kentucky Derby runner Archarcharch, who had to be retired right after that race; last night, Fires' barn was one of the most heavily damaged by the storm.

With the roof ripped off, bales of hay spilled out into the walkway that normally would have his horses either getting ready for or returning from morning training on Thursday.

But there are few horses walking around; there was no morning training going on at Churchill.

And there will be no afternoon racing either, said John Asher, spokesman for Churchill Downs.

Asher said a decision will be made later Thursday on whether the track will have its usual "Downs After Dark" night racing event Friday. The track's famous grandstand, with its iconic Twin Spires, apparently was completely undamaged by the storm. Churchill officials said that the National Weather Service, after touring the site, confirmed it was a tornado that hit.

"It's a miracle no one was hurt," said Kevin Flanery, Churchill Downs racetrack president. "I’m very optimistic that tomorrow (Friday) we will be up and racing."

Although some horses apparently were running loose for a short time after the storm hit, none of the 1,400 horses on the grounds was hurt. And none of the people, many of whom live on the track, was injured in the Wednesday night storm, track officials said.

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