11/06/2005 1:00AM

Tornado rips through Ellis Park


A tornado that ripped through western Kentucky and southwestern Indiana early Sunday inflicted substantial property damage at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. No one was seriously injured at Ellis, but at least three horses suffered fatal injuries, according to track officials.

Officials at Churchill Downs Inc., the Louisville corporation that owns Ellis, reported that several barns and other buildings and property incurred varying degrees of damage in the tornado, including the grandstand, toteboard, and inner rail. The company has not released a dollar amount for estimated damages.

Ellis general manager Paul Kuerzi said it had not yet been determined if any more than three horses had died or were injured in the tornado. The barn area is sparsely populated during the off-season at Ellis, where live racing traditionally is conducted from mid-July to early September. Kuerzi estimated about 150 horses currently are stabled there.

Simulcasting operations have been suspended at Ellis pending further notice.

Ellis is the third CDI-owned track in the last 10 weeks to sustain weather-related damage. Fair Grounds in New Orleans was heavily damaged Aug. 29 by Hurricane Katrina, forcing the cancellation of its 2005-06 meet, while Calder in Miami was closed for several days last week because of damage inflicted by Hurricane Wilma on Oct. 24.