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27 horses killed in barn fire at former Riverside Downs

LOUISVILLE — Kenny Miller of Evansville, Ind., celebrated his 33rd birthday in triumph last Sunday when his filly Kept Lady won a race at Churchill Downs. A few days later, his racing business was in ruins.

An early morning fire swept through a barn at a former race track in Western Kentucky on Thursday, killing 27 horses, including the only two Thoroughbreds owned by Miller.

"Everything I had in the horse business is gone," Miller said in a phone interview. "I couldn't put a saddle, I couldn't put a halter on a horse right now. It's all in that barn, and it's gone."

Other horsemen were mourning their losses in the second deadly fire this year at Riverside Downs outside Henderson. Investigators did not know the cause.

The horses killed included one that survived the blaze but had to be euthanized. Four others in the barn at the time survived.

About 70 horses remain at Riverside, a former quarterhorse and harness track now used to stable and exercise horses, said co-owner Mark Bowling.

The fire, which started about 5:30 a.m., was confined to one barn, which was destroyed. The barn was insured.

In January, six horses died in a fire at Riverside blamed on a vending machine electrical cord. Those horses were owned by John Hancock, a brother of Riverside manager Jack Hancock.

"It's just a terrible thing," Jack Hancock said Thursday. "The worst thing a horseman could ever hear is the word 'fire.'"