DEL MAR, Calif. -- The brave people that saved hundreds of horses at San Luis Ray Downs during the Lilac Fire were honored Friday night at a benefit held in Del Mar.
Michele Dollase was one of the trainers who stayed behind to save the animals.
“It was my priority. It’s like having kids and my responsibility was to take care of those horses,” Dollase said.
As others decided to free horses, Dollase decided to keep the ones she trains inside their barn.
“I made that decision to keep them in and just fought the fire from the outside,” Dollase said.
For about six hours Dollase, her son and employees worked together to keep the barn wet with water and put surrounding flames out.
“I think it worked out pretty well. We didn’t have anybody get hurt,” Dollase said.
A total of 46 horses were killed at San Luis Ray, but many more were saved thanks to everyone that came to their rescue.
Friday night, L'auberge Del Mar and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club recognized them at a fundraiser benefiting the Winners Foundation. A special shout out was given to Martine Bellocq, who suffered second and third-degree burns to over 50 percent of her body while saving horses.
“I did see Martine Bellocq and Pierre, her husband. We were chasing little spot fires that were happening off the property, and Martine was hosing down the shed, and I think I was one of the last [people] to see her,” Dollase said.
Dollase said it was an emotional experience that brought the horse community even closer together.
“I wouldn’t wish it for anybody but at least we’re able to get through it. We’re all strong. We’re very strong and this is wonderful to do this. They're still thinking about us because we still think about it every day,” Dollase said.
Bellocq did not attend Friday night's benefit but is expected to attend the Pacific Classic, where she will be honored with the 15th Laffit Pincay Jr. Award.