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Will Rogers Downs Hit By Overnight Tornado

Over 100 horses are being transferred to nearby Fair Meadows in Tulsa, Okla.

Tornado Damage at Will Rogers Downs

Tornado Damage at Will Rogers Downs

Courtesy of Colleen Davidson

It was a tragic night in Claremore, Okla. May 25 as a tornado, which was classified as an EF-3 by the National Weather Service, touched down and caused massive amounts of damage, including at Will Rogers Downs.

According to Travis Noland, director of communications for Cherokee Nation Entertainment, which owns the track, the tornado moved east from Claremore along Highway 20 to the south end of the property.

"We have about 14 barns, 10 of them experienced significant damage. The others also experienced some damage, but not as significant," Noland said. "The grandstand did experience some significant damage."

Noland also added that the property's casino and RV park experienced damage.

"It was a pretty busy night at the casino and the RV park," Noland said. "There were no severe injuries reported. We were able to use our severe weather protocols—which was move people to shelter before the storm hit—the majority of them were moved to shelter. We really focused on life and safety of the guests."

The facility will be closed until further notice as crews assess damage and come up with a plan forward.

The barn area took a major hit as multiple barns had their roofs torn off, trailers were overturned, and debris covered the ground.

Tornado damage at Will Rogers Downs
Photo: Courtesy of Colleen Davidson
Tornado damage at Will Rogers Downs

According to Danielle Barber, executive director of the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma, the barn area at Will Rogers can fit around 640 horses, but was only filled to approximately 200 at the time of the storm since the spring meeting had ended May 15. Barber stated that by Sunday evening all but one barn had been evacuated.

Barber reported that only one horse had to be euthanized and five were transported to Oklahoma State University for further medical treatment.

"That's a pretty good number for what happened," Barber said.

Many of the horses were transferred to Fair Meadows Race Track about 30 miles away in Tulsa, Okla. Members of the larger equine community showed up for the Thoroughbreds and helped provide trailers, feed, tack, and shavings.

Barber thanked all those who came together and donated time and resources to the effort.

"No matter what, we're all family," Barber said of the equine community. "We can all come together, the horse community is family-oriented."

It was not the first time that Oklahoma racing was rocked by a tornado. In 2013, Moore, Okla. was devastated by a tornado that killed around 150 horses, including many race horses stabled at Celestial Acres Thoroughbred training center.

MARR: More Than 100 Horses Dead Due to Tornado

Following that event, the TRAO and Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association partnered to create a disaster relief fund.

"To us, it didn't matter what the breed was," Barber said. "We set it up jointly because we wanted to be able to help any breed."

Those looking to help contribute to the relief effort for horses impacted by this tornado at Will Rogers Downs can do so here.