Racehorse escapes Ellis Park, runs onto highway; track barn burns to ground day later

Jockeys on horses race on a track
Jockeys on horses race during the Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., on Aug. 10, 2013.
(Garry Jones / Associated Press)

Ellis Park, a horse racing track and gaming center on the Kentucky-Indiana border, found itself the center of unwanted attention twice this weekend. On Saturday, a 2-year-old filly bucked her rider in the post parade, jumped a rail, ran through the barn area and a levee and ended up on a busy highway before being captured.

You can view the video here.

Early Sunday morning, the receiving barn, generally a place where horses who were shipped in and didn’t have a regular stall stay, burned to the ground. Racing and training were canceled Sunday.

Bold and Bossy, the wandering filly, and the seven horses rescued from the receiving barn, are all reported to be in good shape. One horse in the barn suffered an undisclosed minor injury. No people were injured.

The unraced 2-year-old, owned and trained by Michael Ann Ewing, was startled in the post parade and unseated jockey Miguel Mena and from there the chase was on as she found her way to the backside before heading for the highway.

Trainers Jack Hancock and Wes Hawley led the chase and rescue effort.

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“She came by my barn headed down the backside,” Hawley told Ellis Park publicity. “Then she jumped the rail and got off in the barn area. She was a ship-in, so she didn’t know where to go home. … We tried to catch her here [on the backstretch], missed her and then she headed down the levee toward the highway.

“We jumped in the vehicles and started chasing her then. She went out on the highway. She went on [U.S.] 41 and then she took an exit when up I-69 on the bypass, came back on Veterans Memorial Parkway, headed back toward Waterworks Road. … All the time we’re hoping she didn’t get hit by a car. Along the way she ended up on the other side of the highway from where we were. A gentleman and his wife caught her.

“When we got to her, we took the tack off ... and put the [lead] shank on her. We checked her out pretty good while we were there. Superficial cuts, a little bit of blood. But all in all, she was in great shape for what happened.”

Bold and Bossy, after having been loose for almost 30 minutes, was brought back to the track in the horse ambulance, which is normally reserved for on-track injuries.

Ewing reiterated that the filly suffered only minor injuries.

“She’s not lame,” Ewing said. “No [broken] bones or stitches needed. Probably traumatized mentally, but she’s going to be fine. We’ll have our own vets check her out and monitor her, and after a few days to make sure everything is good I’ll probably give her some time on the farm. But thank God she’s fine.”

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The fire at the receiving barn occurred between 4 and 4:15 a.m. and was fully involved when the Henderson (Ky.) Fire Department arrived around 4:30 a.m. All the horses were removed from the area by that time. Seven different fire departments were involved in extinguishing the blaze. A fire official believed “it was electrical in nature,” pending an investigation. The belief is that it was an accident with no criminal intent.

The barn was about 25 years old and, like all barns, contained a lot of hay and straw, which can easily fuel a fire.