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Friday, June 24, 2011

Tornado cancels racing at Churchill Downs track (Reuters)

LOUISVILLE, Ky (Reuters) – Racing and training were canceled on Thursday at Churchill Downs, a day after a tornado hit the thoroughbred racetrack famed as home of the Kentucky Derby, according to a statement from the track.

National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Szappanos in Louisville confirmed that a tornado had touched down at the site Wednesday evening.

There were no reported injuries to workers or horses, according to the statement, posted on the track's web site.

Nine barns suffered "significant damage" as a result of the storm, along with a number of stable area structures, including some living accommodations for workers, according to the statement.

Churchill Downs officials are assessing damage to the stable area and have arranged for the possible relocation of about 150 horses to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center near the racetrack.

Churchill Downs also is coordinating with the American Red Cross and emergency management officials to provide shelter for about 100 workers whose living spaces were damaged.

Churchill Downs is most famous for hosting the annual Kentucky Derby, the first leg in U.S. thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown of events, which also includes the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

Known as the "most exciting two minutes in sports," the Kentucky Derby is run on the first Saturday of every May, with a field of 3-year-old thoroughbreds racing around a one-and-a-quarter-mile track.

(Reporting by Steve Robrahn; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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