A wind-driven wildfire closing in on several Southern California communities is not expected to pose a threat to Breeders' Cup activites.

A wind-driven wildfire closing in on several Southern California communities is not expected to pose a threat to Breeders' Cup activites.

AP/Nam Y. Huh

Smoke Should Not Affect Breeders' Cup Horses

By Deirdre Biles and Margaret Ransom
The blistering heat wave hitting the Southern California took a slight break Friday morning, but it wasn't good news for most Southern California residents and race fans at Santa Anita. Several wildfires within miles of the racetrack raged out of control Friday, producing thick smoke that hid the early morning and mid-day sun.

The closest fire to Santa Anita is the Grand Prix fire in Lytle Creek located about 40 miles southeast of the track. Soot and ash from the fire rained down on Santa Anita Friday and as far away as Malibu, nearly 80 miles away. The blaze, which is reported to have been deliberately set, has now burned nearly 11,000 acres of the San Bernardino Forest and was less than 10% contained early Friday afternoon.

The smoke and ashes should not affect the performances of horses in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Championship Day races at Santa Anita, according to Dr. Larry Bramlage of the American Association of Equine Practitioners' On Call program.

Horses have long nasal passages, he explained, that are very efficient in filtering out particles of dirt and other debris from the air they breathe, especially in races. Known as turbinates, these passages are small coils of bone covered by mucous membranes, which trap the particles.

The smoke and ashes would only be a concern if they were inhaled by horses for a long period of time, Bramlage said. But several days of exposure, he added, shouldn't cause any problems.

"I'm not concerned at all," said trainer Nick Hines, who will saddle Vino Tinto in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). "But if I had a bad bleeder, I might be concerned."

The California Highway Patrol ordered the closure of interstates 210, the closest freeway to the track, and 15, the main route from Southern California to Las Vegas, thanks to the thick black smoke and flames fueled by near 25 m.p.h. winds. Thousands of nearby residents have been forced to evacuate as well.

Riverside County Emergency Operations reported that more than 1,500 firefighters are fighting the blaze, which began on Tuesday afternoon. High winds are responsible for the blaze jumping ridges and roads and higher winds are expected on Saturday.

Another fire near Piru, 70 miles north of Los Angeles in Ventura County, had charred about 700 acres by early Friday and was only 10 percent contained on Friday morning. At Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, 50 miles north of San Diego, 1,350 firefighters have been battling a 4,100-acre brush fire. The fire started on a training range Tuesday and apparently was sparked by ammunition used in military exercises. That fire was only 40 percent contained early Friday.

The forecast for Saturday in the Arcadia area calls for mostly sunny skies and a high in the mid-90s with high Santa Ana winds.