Horse Rescuers to Receive a Very Special Eclipse Award

Donations for human and equine wildfire evacuees poured in to Del Mar in the days after the fire. (Courtesy Del Mar/Katie Jones)

Welcome to another edition of America’s Best Racing’s Main Track. Each week in this space we spotlight the most meaningful story of the past seven days, detailing a story that stands out because of its importance or perhaps the emotional response it generates.

Looking ahead, if you believe there’s a story this week that should be featured in next week’s edition of the Main Track, let us know by tweeting it to @ABRLive using the hashtag #ABRMainTrack.

In this week’s story we’ll discuss the Eclipse Award that deserves the loudest round of applause at the Jan. 25 ceremonies.

It was announced last week that a Special Eclipse Award will be presented on behalf of the responders who bravely and courageously risked their lives and serious injury helping horses during the fatal fire at the San Luis Rey and the hurricane that left more than 800 Thoroughbreds without food and clean water at Hipodromo Camarero in Puerto Rico.

As much as the Eclipse Awards promises to be a festive night for horses such as Gun Runner and Forever Unbridled and the people responsible for their grand success in 2017, the Special Award puts center stage actions whose importance far exceeds the results on any racetrack this year.

What we saw at both Camarero and San Luis Rey was the very worst of nature and the very best in human nature.

The courage it takes to run into a barn consumed by fire or wade into a cascade of flood waters is something that cannot be measured nor assumed in anyone.

We would all like to believe that in a time of crisis we would react heroically, yet that’s an unreal posture. In truth, it’s not until that moment arrives, and people can either respond decisively or cower in fear that a person’s true character becomes known.

Thankfully for the horse racing industry, at a time of severe need, there was no shortage of people willing to help regardless of the risk. Because of them, two tragic incidents did not take an even worse turn.

To thank all of them individually at the Eclipse Awards, it would stretch the event past post time for the Pegasus World Cup 48 hours later.

Yet with this one award it pays tribute to a countless number. Many of them are nameless. Others stand in testament to the bravery that was so profoundly on display in both places. To list everyone deserving of praise is an impossible task, yet some stand out for the sacrifice they made.

At this week, Jeremy Balan poignantly told the heartbreaking story of trainer Martine Bellocq, who suffered third-degree burns on 60 percent of her body while making a failed attempt to save a 2-year-old colt in her burning barn.

Her story underscores the heroics of trainer Manuel Cavario, who used a blanket to put out the flames around her and the charitable work of Josiah Love, a 10-year-old artist committed to raising funds to help her.

In Puerto Rico, it was Kelley Stobie and Shelley Blodgett of Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare who were among those leading the way in rallying the support of the racing industry.

They and so many other people will be represented in that single award and all of them deserve heartfelt recognition on a night when the very best racing has to offer is recognized and saluted. They have also earned some applause, and hopefully it will be loudest of all for the people who are the night’s true champions.

The Also-Eligible List

Here are some of the other noteworthy stories that made for a lively week in the U.S. Thoroughbred racing industry:

Instilled Regard much the best in Lecomte Stakes

Firenze Fire grinds out Jerome Stakes victory

NTRA to receive Special Eclipse Award

Travers, Whitney days highlight 2018 Saratoga meet

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