Damage on Louisiana Farms Not as Bad as Expected

The damage of Hurricane Katrina on south Louisiana Thoroughbred farms wasn't as bad as originally feared, but it will take time to repair and replace fencing and barns, as well as remove debris and tree limbs.

"It's not as bad as I thought it would be," said Val Murrell, general manager of Clear Creek Stud near Folsom, La., located about 50 miles north of New Orleans. "It's not going to be a picnic going home, but nobody got hurt and right now that's all that matters."

Murrell, in Grand Prairie, Texas, for the Fasig-Tipton Texas yearling sale, said it had been difficult trying to reach family and farm employees. "We've had trouble trying to reach someone at the farm, but we finally got through today (Tuesday)," he said. "From what I could find out in a few brief conversations, a roof was blown off a yearling barn, but luckily no horses got hurt. Most of the horses that were originally housed in that barn are here at this sale. I'm sure when we get home there will be more to do to clean it all up."

Like many farms and homes near New Orleans, Clear Creek is currently without electricity. "The horses are little uncomfortable in the heat without their fans and a little scared but they are all safe," Murrell said.

Terry Gabriel of Elysian Bloodstock, also located near Folsom, La., said he does know the extent of damage to his farm. "We're just having a hard time getting in touch with everyone," he said. "But from what little I do know, we're going to be all right."

Gabriel believes the hurricane kept many Louisiana horsemen from attending the sale, held Aug. 29-30 at Lone Star Park. "About 75% of the Louisiana buy-base comes from south Louisiana and they couldn't get here. Even if they could get here, people kind of lose their flow for a horse sale when something so serious is going on at home."

In an effort to aid with the relief efforts, the Texas Thoroughbred Association set up a table inside the sales pavilion to take donations for hurricane victims in Louisiana.