June 23, 2011 / 3:09 AM / 8 years ago

Apparent tornado causes damage at Churchill Downs

Damage is seen at a backside horse barn area after a tornado hit and damaged five barns at the Churchill Downs race track in Louisville, Kentucky June 22, 2011. REUTERS/John Sommers II

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An apparent tornado struck Wednesday night at Churchill Downs, the thoroughbred racetrack famed as home of the Kentucky Derby, damaging some barns, but no injuries were reported, an emergency dispatcher said.

The presumed twister touched down between 8 and 8:30 p.m. local time in the midst of several powerful thunderstorms moving through the greater Louisville, Kentucky, area, said Vince Luney, a supervisor for the city’s emergency dispatch center.

“There’s damage to some of the horse barns,” he said, adding that no horses or humans had been hurt. No immediate information was available on the extent of the damage, he said.

Churchill Downs is most famous for hosting the annual Kentucky Derby, the first leg in U.S. thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown of events, which also includes the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

Known as the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby is run on the first Saturday of every May, with a field of 3-year-old thoroughbreds racing around a one-and-a-quarter-mile track.

“We have storm damage in (the) stable area. No injuries that we know of,” Churchill Downs spokeswoman Julie Koenig Loignon said in an email.

The National Weather Service could not confirm a tornado having struck at Churchill Downs before conducting a survey of the site, meteorologist Linda Gilbert told Reuters.

“We certainly had a lot of funnel cloud reports, and we got a report of some damage in the Churchill Downs area,” she said, adding that the weather service had received reports of a roof torn off an equipment rental business and some downed power lines.

Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton

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