Meadowbrook Farm barn nearly destroyed by Tuesday fire.

Meadowbrook Farm barn nearly destroyed by Tuesday fire.

Louise Reinagel

Cause of Florida Barn Fire Still Under Investigation

By Ryan Conley
Investigators did not release any findings May 7 from the fire that destroyed the stallion barn and killed five sires at Meadowbrook Farm of the Ocala Jockey Club May 6. The officials were delayed from an earnest start to their investigation until the remnants of the octagonal-shaped roof that once covered the $1-million stallion barn were demolished and cleared by mid-afternoon.

The early evening fire killed Meadowbrook-based stallions Darn That Alarm, Traitor, Star of Valor, Faygo, and Reality Road. Passerbys and workers were able to save the farm's other stallions--Impeachment, Lexicon, Reprized, and Wind Whipper.

Bob Cromartie, who is part of Briggs & Cromartie Bloodstock Agency near Ocala, Fla., was the designer of the stallion barn when he served as general manager of Meadowbrook during a five-year period that ended in 1991. He called the fire "baffling."

"It was very well built, state of the art," said Cromartie, who went on to develop two separate versions of Silverleaf Farm for David Hutson. "It was concrete block. The only wood in the whole thing was in the breezeway and the roof--that's what makes it somewhat baffling."

At $3,500, Star of Valor carried the highest stud fee of the stallions who died at Meadowbrook, which is owned by Barbara LaCroix. Star of Valor was co-owned by Team Valor and Hollywood Park-based trainer David LaCroix, who is Barbara LaCroix's son and general manager of Meadowbrook.

"When I read about (the fire) on the Internet, I broke out in a sweat," said Team Valor's Barry Irwin, who sold LaCroix a half-share of the 10-year-old son of Phone Trick after he completed his racing career. "I couldn't stop thinking about it all night. I only slept an hour all night."

Irwin teamed with Meadowbrook in the campaigning of Prized, who won the 1989 Breeders' Cup Turf. Prized is the sire of Meadowbrook stallion Reprized.

Marion County building director John O'Connor noted that, by Florida law, non-residential structures on farms are not required to meet the standards of commercial building codes--laws that could mandate such fire-safety features as sprinkler systems.

The Meadowbrook incident was the second barn fire to take place in about a year's time in the Ocala area. Twenty-two juvenile Thoroughbreds were killed at Ocala Stud from a barn fire of undetermined nature in February 2002.