Ellis Park to honor Marvin Prado, heroes who saved horses from barn fire

August 28, 2021

HENDERSON, Ky. (Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021) — Before he went back into the barn where flames were expanding at an alarming rate, Marvin Prado thought about his wife,

who was seven months pregnant with their first child and experiencing complications with high blood pressure.

“What happens to them if something happens to me?” flashed through his mind, Prado said recently. Then he went back into Ellis Park’s burning receiving barn and got the last horse out. After that, he resumed cleaning out the stalls of the horses in his care for trainer Eddie Kenneally.

Asked later why he went back into the flaming barn, Prado said: “There wasn’t any option. The horse had to get out.”

The next day, Prado was back in Louisville, where he lives. His wife had labor induced, their daughter born two months prematurely.

A lot of people across America have heard the story of Bold and Bossy. That’s the 2-year-old filly who got loose in the post parade and ran off the track and over the levee before going onto the highway and interstate until finally being stopped with a huge assist from trainers Wes Hawley and Jack Hancock, who had independently jumped in their trucks in pursuit of the filly. In a bizarre twist of fate, Bold and Bossy, kept overnight because of her traumatic misadventure rather than vanning back to Lexington, was among the six racehorses and a pony in the receiving barn (for horses shipping in to race) when it caught fire in the wee hours of Sunday Aug. 22.

Fewer people know how those horses got out of their stalls and the barn, which was completely engulfed in fire in perhaps 20 minutes. Those on the scene and already at work at 4 a.m. say the man of the moment was Prado, with assistance from fellow Kenneally grooms Cristobal Munoz and Estuardo Godoy. Brendan Walsh’s grooms Salvador Hernandez and Jose Garcia also were involved, including extricating their stable pony, the retired racehorse Scuba, from the barn.

Ellis Park hopes to recognize the backstretch workers during the races this weekend, contingent upon the availability of Prado, whose baby remains hospitalized.

“Racing is a way of life. Taking care of our horses is a way of life,” said Michael Ann Ewing, Bold and Bossy’s owner and trainer. “These guys who stepped in — most of them I’ve never met — they’re heroes. They just dropped everything. Especially those guys who ran into a burning barn without thinking and saved seven horses. Because it could have been really bad.

“They’re brave. They’re kind. They love their horses. People just come together when any of us need help: People running into that fire or chasing my filly down the road, trying to find her. And the response afterward! So many texts, emails and Facebook questions: ‘How is your filly?’ I personally want to extend my thanks to everybody and to Marvin, and all who helped him. What could have been a tragedy is not, through people just stepping up and not thinking about themselves.”

Prado was at work, cleaning his horses’ stalls and about to empty a wheel barrel when he looked over at the nearby receiving barn and saw flames. He says he hollered to his workmates and they rushed over. Prado told his story at the encouragement of Kentucky HBPA Hispanic Liaison Julio Rubio, who helped with translation.

According to those at the scene, Prado jumped into action and one by one retrieved the six racehorses, getting them out by their halters without a lead shank and handing them to his colleagues, who then found empty stalls for the horses.

“They are guys who have been with us a long time,” Kenneally said. “They are good people, so their natural instinct is to try to help. If there’s a situation where you’re needed, they’re the type of people who will jump in and do the right thing.”

Prado estimated it took “two or three minutes” to get the six horses out. Five minutes later, he said the barn was completely immersed in flames. Seven fire departments assisted to extinguishing the fire.

“These acts of bravery are a testament to the real folks who represent this industry in largely unseen capacities and actions,” said Ellis Park racing secretary Dan Bork. “To do what they did, to run into a building engulfed in flames — and then go about their business as if nothing ever happened, like what they did wasn’t anything out of the ordinary — they’re true heroes with their totally selfless acts of courage.

“These are two unbelievable stories that happened in a one-day span that you could never even imagine. But it shows how much the people in this game really do care when it comes to taking care of these horses, including Wes and Jack chasing the filly down a highway. You can’t make it up.”

Ellis Park Press Release

Marvin Prado, looking at video of Ellis Park’s burning receiving barn after he helped get the horses out, at the Kentucky HBPA office in Louisville. Jennie Rees photo

The receiving barn fire. Photo by Justice Floyd

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