Churchill Downs hit hard by possible twister

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“Anyone who had an empty stall, we put ‘em in,” Fires said.

No damage has been reported at the nearby University of Louisville, which is sparsely populated at this time of year, said John Drees, a university spokesman. Elsewhere in the city, high water from the torrential rains briefly trapped a couple of people in their cars, and a hospital reported that it treated two patients hit by falling trees.

The worst damage, though, was concentrated at Churchill Downs, said Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. Dozens of power poles went down near there and thousands were without power for a time.

The 137th Kentucky Derby, run this year on May 7, brought in a crowd of more than 160,000. The annual spring tradition, the first leg of horseracing’s Triple Crown, is known as much for its mint juleps and fancy hats as racing.

The track, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., underwent extensive renovations in 2002 and 2003 totaling more than $200 million.

In August 2009, a flash flood heavily damaged the Kentucky Derby Museum, situated just off Gate 1 at Churchill Downs. The museum was closed for nine months while it underwent a $5.5 million renovation.

Storm sirens wailed in Kentucky’s largest city as multiple tornado warnings were issued as the storm blew through.

“It looks like we dodged what could have been a really bad … evening,” Poynter said.

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Associated Press writers Janet Cappiello, Beth Campbell and Joe Edwards contributed to this report. Edwards reported from Nashville, Tenn. AP freelancer Josh Abner also contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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