DEL MAR, Calif. (KGTV) - About 400 horses displaced by the Lilac Fire will move back to their original home at San Luis Rey Downs next week, according to trainers at the Del Mar Racetrack.
The horses have been living in Del Mar's stables since the fire tore through the downs on December 7. Nearly 50 horses died in the fire, and several trainers and stable workers were also injured.
Del Mar has become their second home in the four months since.
"I joke that it's like losing your home and being put up in a proper hotel,"' says trainer Ed Freeman.
He has 16 horses living at Del Mar and says he's not sure what the emotions will be like returning to the site of one of the worst days of his life.
"I'm a little worried it will be stressful for the workers," Freeman says. "Our barn isn't there, we'll be in a new spot. But it's still going back to the scene of the crime."
Del Mar racing officials had targeted mid-April for the move-out. They need their stables back to begin preparations for this summer's racing season. Nearly 3200 horses will be using the track to train and race over the next few months.
"It's vital for Del Mar for people to have a place to bring in young horses that are going to be beneficial during our race season," says Racing Secretary David Jerkens.
But, he adds, Del Mar was happy to help out.
"Sometimes it takes a tragedy to see the good in people," says Jerkens.
A GoFundMe page run by Del Mar and Santa Anita Racetrack helped raise more than $600,000 to take care of the horses, trainers and workers displaced by the fire. And in the weeks following the fire, hundreds of people volunteered at the stable to take care of the horses. Trainers say they're humbled by the support they got and had nothing but high praise for Del Mar as they get ready to leave.
"I definitely think they looked out for everyone's best interest," says Adam Kitchingman, with First Home Thoroughbreds. "They didn't want to leave anyone high and dry."