Filly Rescued From Pletcher Barn After Storm at Saratoga

Filly Rescued From Pletcher Barn After Storm at Saratoga
Photo: Mike Kane
Barn at Saratoga Race Course damaged by Monday storm.
A portion of the side of a barn at Saratoga Race Course had to be cut away Monday afternoon to free a filly who was trapped for about 45 minutes in her stall by tree branches that fell during a severe thunderstorm.

The 3-year-old filly trained by Todd Pletcher was not injured, Pletcher's assistant Seth Benzel said Tuesday morning.

As a band of intense storms moved through upstate New York during the afternoon the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning. The high winds that accompanied the heavy rain and hail knocked down trees, branches, and power lines in Saratoga Springs.

At noon Tuesday, the Niagara Mohawk power company reported that approximately 20,000 customers in the region were still without electricity. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, located across the street from the racetrack, was closed Tuesday because it was still affected by the power outage.

Work crews at Saratoga Race Course were busy Tuesday morning with chain saws, cleaning up the debris left by the storm. The workers removed a pine tree that fell against the Carousel dining area on the back of the grandstand, denting the copper roof. There were a few trees and many branches on the ground. A tree fell across the Clare Court jogging track and took down a section of the inner and outer fences. There were also trees down at the adjacent Stonerside Farm property on Nelson Avenue.

A large piece of an oak tree landed on east end of Barn 58 that houses some of Pletcher's horses. Barn 58 is in the Horse Haven section of the grounds, the site of the first Thoroughbred meeting in 1863.

The first wave of storms came through the area around noon Monday. Benzel said he and his staff were at the barns near the Oklahoma training track when the bigger storm arrived.

"It was probably about 3:25 and we were just watching the winds howl and the trees bend every which way and all of a sudden we just heard a big crash and saw that branch come down," he said.

At first, Benzel said he didn't realize how big the branch was. Within a few minutes, the rescue operations was underway.

"The maintenance crew here at the track came. They were right on it," Benzel said. "As soon as the storm had subsided they were here with a lot of equipment, a lot of trucks, a lot of people. They got right on it. They had some chain saws, got all those branches right out of the way and subsequently went to the wall. Once the wall was down we got her (filly) out."

George Hathaway, the facilities manager at Saratoga, said a pony and three of Pletcher's horses were taken from Barn 58 after the branches were removed. On Tuesday morning, workmen were repairing damage to the old barn with the slate roof.

"We were lucky that no one or no horse got hurt," Hathaway said in a statement released by NYRA. "We are also thankful for all the track personnel and stable help that showed up to help us out."

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