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Hendrickson Back in the Training Game

keeneland start
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 excited.”

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.”




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