It was a symbol of tradition and excellence.
The Thoroughbred barns leased by Legacy Stable at the Aiken Training Track that were heavily damaged by a fire on Saturday afternoon, used to belong to the Whitney family's Greentree Stable. The 1968 Belmont Stakes winner Stage Door Johnny, occupied one of the stalls in those barns when training in Aiken, structures that had been a part of the training facility for more than seven decades, said Ron Stevens, Legacy Stable.
The winner of the 2013 Belmont Stakes Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice, while in Aiken, had been stabled in one of the barns that sustained damage during Saturday's blaze.
The property is owned by Rhett Riviere. A total of 11 stalls were lost as a result of the fire, and the damaged barns, conditions will have to be evaluated as to whether or not they can be salvaged. The horses that were removed from the burning structures were guided to safety by experienced horsemen, many who had just participated in a wedding. A number of the horses that were brought to safety and away from the harmful flames, collectively were worth millions of dollars.
“A lot of great horses have come through this barn,” said Stevens. “There's a lot of tradition associated with these barns. People not only in Aiken, but in the industry know about the Greentree Stable.”
The quick response and actions from the participating agencies and the surrounding community of horsemen precluded an untoward situation from becoming much worse.
“I want to thank everybody, first of all the fire department and Chief Barranco, they were here on the spot, in the heat, and they did a professional and wonderful job,” said Stevens. “I'm thankful to them and to everybody in the horse community. Everyone has pitched in and offered stalls, paddocks, tack and wheel barrels. My phone's still ringing with people asking, 'What can I do?'”
The fact that the fire happened during the summer, and not at the height of the training season, meant there were a number of available stalls in other barns.
“There are memories here, a lot of things we can't replace,” said Stevens. “I'm just thankful that all the horses got out safely.”
Legacy Stable didn't have property insurance on the tack and office equipment that were destroyed when the fire engulfed the structure, said Stevens.
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, said Capt. David Turno, Aiken Department of Public Safety. The investigation is ongoing.
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Ron Stevens and Brad Stauffer’s Legacy Stable suffered heavy damage in a fire on Saturday.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Ron Stevens and Brad Stauffer's Legacy Stable suffered heavy damage in a fire on Saturday afternoon. Stevens' miniature Australian shephed is pictured.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Ron Stevens and Brad Stauffer’s Legacy Stable suffered heavy damage in a fire on Saturday afternoon. Stevens is pictured.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Ron Stevens and Brad Stauffer's Legacy Stable suffered heavy damage in a fire on Saturday afternoon. Stevens is pictured.×