10/27/2003 12:00AM

Horses sheltered from wildfires


Del Mar, the San Luis Rey Downs training center, and several San Diego County farms on Sunday and Monday became centers of refuge for horses and other animals because of the devastating wildfires in eastern San Diego County.

Fires were burning near Alpine, Ramona, and Valley Center. Radio reports said 300,000 acres had burned and that 11 deaths had been attributed to the fire.

At midday Monday, Del Mar had more than 600 animals on its backstretch, many of them horses.

Rich Decker of Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, approximately 40 minutes to the northeast of Del Mar, said they were housing 70 horses.

Ballena Vista Farm in Ramona had suffered no damage as of early Monday, but staff were keeping a close eye on the sky.

"Everything is okay," said Megan Mavroudis of Ballena Vista. "It looks like it's going the other direction. Two mountain ranges over, it's huge."

Golden Eagle Farm, one of the leading breeding and racing operations in the state, is in Ramona. The farm could not be reached for comment.

Leigh Ann Howard, a public trainer at San Luis Rey Downs, said 20 horses were being temporarily housed there.