02/07/2013 2:10PM

Turfway Park: Hendrickson still trying to deal with barn fire tragedy


Lori Hendrickson might never return to training horses, although no one would blame her if she didn’t. Hendrickson lived through the nightmare of having all 10 of her horses killed in a barn fire last fall, and she is still trying to get over the terrible emotional wounds the accident inflicted on her.

The fire occurred in the early morning hours of Oct. 29 in a barn she leased on a private farm in LaGrange, Ky., just northeast of Louisville. Hendrickson said no cause has been determined, nor does she expect one ever will be. She said the man from whom she leased the barn had allowed the insurance to lapse on it.

“I brought the horses in that night thinking it was going to be too cold,” she recalled in a recent interview. “Nothing was out of place. There were no red lamps and the lights were off. We’ll never know what happened. Sometimes I think I don’t want to know.”

Hendrickson, a 42-year-old native of Texas, trained a small stable for about 12 years, winning 117 races and more than $2.2 million in purses. She started in 1999 at River Downs before mostly traveling a circuit of racetracks in Kentucky and Louisiana. She is well known by many of her fellow horsemen throughout the Midwest.

These days, Hendrickson is selling collegiate and business apparel while working flexible hours and living in Louisville with her husband and 12-year-old son.

“I was so beat up in the business I was really thinking about getting out even before the tragedy happened,” she said. “I even tried to train a little after the fire, but my heart wasn’t in it.

“I might break some babies when the winter turns, but I don’t ever think I’ll be back on the scale that I was,” she added. “I’ve also been asked to manage a couple of farms, but what I’m doing now is better for me. I miss being around the horses, but I sure don’t miss the day-to-day grind.”

Among the horses killed in the fire was Rogue Scholar, who was 11 at the time. Rogue Scholar, an earner of more than $350,000, provided Hendrickson with some of her career thrills from 2004-07 before being claimed away for $25,000. The gelding raced for nearly two more years, dropping down the claiming ladder until making his final start for a mere $3,200 at the Northern California fairs, after which Hendrickson arranged to have Rogue Scholar live out his days in her care.

“I loved all the horses so much,” she said. “I don’t ever want to feel like I’ve slammed the door or anything, but for right now being out of the business is the right move for me.”

* The co-features of a stakes-less Saturday program at Turfway are back-to-back allowances carded as the 10th and 11th of 12 races. A starter-allowance at the rarely run distance of 1 1/2 miles (race 7) also is on a program that starts at 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

The Turfway schedule has been condensed to just twice a week – Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons – until racing is held Thursday, March 21, two days before the track’s showcase race, the $500,000 Spiral Stakes. Twelve races will be carded every Friday and Saturday. The meet ends March 30.

* Racing officials at Keeneland Race Course announced this week that the Grade 1 Madison Stakes will be part of the Blue Grass Stakes card for the first time this year. The Madison, a seven-furlong Polytrack race, customarily had been run the Thursday before the Blue Grass. There now will be five stakes on the April 12 Blue Grass card. The Keeneland spring meet runs April 5-26.