State-of-the-art training facility destroyed by fire was one of a kind
Published Tuesday, January 5, 2016 5:28PM EST Last Updated Tuesday, January 5, 2016 5:36PM EST
It was an event attended by some of the biggest names in harness racing.
The official opening of Classy Lane Stables near Puslinch more than a decade ago had the industry abuzz about the state-of-the-art facility with all of the latest equipment, owned by Dorchester’s Jamie Millier.
It was a dream come true for Millier, who was a new standardbred owner with a passion for racing. He also owned Classic Excavating out of Dorchester.
He says his plans went from a “Chevrolet to a Cadillac” model during the early stages, as he realized the demand for high-tech operations.
That dream was destroyed Monday night in a devastating fire that claimed the lives of more than 40 horses and took hours to extinguish.
Millier’s wife Barb was so distraught after the fire that she had trouble speaking.
“We don’t know (how) it’s happened,” she said, calling the fire unbelievable.
A neighbour spotted the flames and called 911 around 11 p.m. Monday. Firefighters were called in from several communities in the area, and trucked in more than 200,000 gallons of water to the location since there are no hydrants in the area.
The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office is investigating.
When Classy Lane Stables opened, the 54-hectare centre seemed like a country club for horses, with a sand track, swimming pool, two electronic equicizers, a tack shop, blacksmith shop and on site veterinarian.
Millier had 10 racehorses of his own at the time and the centre had attracted top trainers from both Canada and the U.S.
Canada’s Trainer of the Year, Ben Wallace, was with Millier at Classy Lane Stables from the beginning.
“This is a lifestyle, and these horses are part of your life, rather than just a commodity," Wallace told CTV News.
It’s an historic fire for Puslinch – the costliest one ever – but the reverberations are being felt across North America.
One of the racehorses that died, Apprentice Hanover, was worth more than $1 million and had competed in big races on both sides of the border.
As news spread about the huge losses, crowdfunding accounts have been created.
The ripple effects will impact the horseracing industry for months to come.