Lori Hendrickson’s excitement about this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1)
helped convince her that she was ready to return to training
Thoroughbreds, something she had done for 14 years. She had all but
decided to leave the business about seven months earlier, however, when
she lost 10 horses and two cats in a fire at a barn she was leasing at a
farm in La Grange, Ky. Her heart was broken, and she went to work with
her husband in his sports apparel business.
“My mind was starting to get back into it because I started preparing
to go to the Derby,” Hendrickson said. “I couldn’t wait to go to the
Derby. Normally, I’m not spending two months finding a dress. I got too
At Keeneland, Hendrickson has three 2-year-old Louisiana-bred colts
in training. One of them, Lori’s Darling (with Hendrickson, left), will
become her first starter in a year if he makes his career debut here on
Oct. 24, five days before the one-year anniversary of the fire.
“He’s not named after me,” Hendrickson said about the Yankee
Gentleman colt, whose own story tugs at the heartstrings. He was named
for breeder and owner Jeff Jeans’ late wife, Lori, who died of cancer
about 1½ years ago. A month after she died, lightning struck and killed
the colt’s dam and suckling half-brother at the Louisiana farm where
they resided. Then Hendrickson’s barn burned.
“I think we’re due,” Hendrickson said, alluding to a victory by
Lori’s Darling after the run of horrible luck. “He’s working awesome,
this horse (who has three consecutive bullet works over the Keeneland
Polytrack). I think his mommy and Lori are looking down on him. I think
all of them are looking down on him.”
Hendrickson understandably tears up when she talks about the animals
that died in the fire (a goat survived) and said she heals a little more
each day. Remembering the horses and the cats helps, and she included
photos of them in the spiral-bound “gallop chart” she uses to record the
activities of her current runners.
Following the Keeneland meet, Hendrickson plans to train a small
string at Fair Grounds while returning to her Louisville home to
continue to work with her husband.
“You wouldn’t be in this business if you weren’t a dreamer,” she
said. “It’s a part of my life; it really is. Everybody says you can
never walk away from it. I think I really believe it now.”