Evacuated horses begin to return home to San Luis Rey Downs after Lilac Fire

Posted at 5:51 PM, Apr 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-08 21:08:49-04

Bonsall, Calif.,- Many horses and their owners are returning home to San Luis Rey Training Center, after the Lilac Fire devastated their homes. 

Chomping away at her breakfast is 6 year-old thoroughbred, Miss Napper Tandy.

She is a sweet, race horse, who is also a survivor. 

“I smelled the smoke, and knew there could be trouble,” owner, Sam Nichols said, while recalling the troubling moments that changed their lives.

Last December’s Lilac Fire burned 4,100 acres of North County, destroying 157 structures.

One of them was their home— the stables at San Luis Rey Training Center in Bonsall.

Miss Napper Tandy managed to get away from the flames, but found herself in a small pen with six other horses.

In the chaos, she was badly injured.

“She had been kicked pretty bad in the leg,” Nichols said.

For a race horse, it was devastating. 

But thanks to donations and community support, she and dozens of her stable mates found a temporary home at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“I rehabbed her here, I started working her here,” Nichols said.

It worked. In her first race since the fire and her injury, Miss Napper Tandy took first.

Adding to her title of “survivor,” she became a first-time “winner.”

“It toughened her up, it made her more of a fighter. She’s always been a fighter, but she came through it pretty well,” Nichols said proudly.

But five months after the devastation, temporary stables are now being opened up at San Luis Rey.

Many riders and their horses are moving back.

Miss Napper Tandy’s stay in Del Mar will soon come to a close.

“It’s bittersweet going back. It’s been great for us and the horses. But also, we’re ready to go home,” Nichols said.

10News is told more horses will be moving back into San Luis Rey Training Center in waves, throughout the next month.