11/20/2008 12:00AM

Barn fire kills 29 horses in western Kentucky


Twenty-nine horses have been reported killed in another barn fire at Riverside Downs, a Thoroughbred training facility in western Kentucky. The fire was the fourth in five years at Riverside, located just a few miles from Ellis Park in northern Henderson County, Ky.

Some of the horses that perished in the fire had raced in recent months on the Kentucky circuit, including Kept Lady, winner of a $15,000 claiming race Sunday at Churchill Downs. At least six trainers lost horses in the fire: Benjie Larue, Bobby Larue, Shirley Greene, Kenny Miller, Jerry Joe Greenwell, and Kim Nesbitt.

Benjie Larue said four horses escaped the fire, which was called in to emergency workers at about 4:30 a.m. local time Thursday. "One of the horses I got out myself was Countess Katie," who was scheduled to race Friday at Churchill but has been scratched, said Larue. "She got all her hair singed off, but otherwise she's okay."

The previous fires at Riverside occurred in Dec. 2003, Nov. 2005, and Jan. 2008. Formerly a standardbred racing facility known as Audubon Raceway, Riverside has a half-mile training track and four barns that remain in use. Before the fire, about 150 horses were stabled there, said Larue.

"The barn we had was a good one, and all the people with horses in there are good people," said Larue. "All this is such a shame."

The Evansville Courier-Press reported Thursday on its website that local fire officials were investigating the cause but quoted one saying that "there is nothing preliminarily" to suggest the fire was suspicious in nature.