Tri-state racing fans converged on Waterford Park today as the Newell oval resumed the autumn meeting interrupted for a day by the disastrous fire in the stable area Thursday. Friday's card was cancelled.
A full nine races were scheduled this afternoon, with the feature The $10,000 Gateway Stakes, reportedly the largest purse in the history of West Virginia horse racing.
While they were running again at Waterford, a large number of horses from the some 900 originally stabled there were in a race of their own - the Hancock County sheriff's office said many runaways were roaming the hills in the vicinity of New Cumberland and would be rounded up today.
Hundreds of horses milled about the park during the fire and many fled into the highways, winding up on farms and in orchards. The number of strays was estimated at 50 yesterday.
The animals were released as the roaring fire threatened all the sprawling barns. Firemen from six district cities stopped the blaze after about 40 per cent of the stables were consumed.
The human death toll remained at one, William Toppacott, 47, Negro groom, who died apparently while trying to free trapped horses. Another man was thought missing yesterday but this report was blamed on the confusion and turmoil.
Coroner George Schwerba said today there will be no formal inquest. Toppacott died of suffocation and third degree burns, according to the coroner, who ruled it an accidental death. His body was discovered in the midst of the firemen's three-hour battle with the blaze.
The body was shipped today to his home at Warrenton, Va., where he leaves a widow and nine children.
Meanwhile six more dead horses were identified. They were Rake and Low Talk, owned by Norman Heaton and Morgan Lewis of Versailles, Ky., and Devil's Grin, Shiner, Right Move and Perfect Idea, owned by Joseph Rogers. Four or five were reported destroyed because of broken legs and several others were cremated in the raging fire.
Stableboys picked through ruins yesterday, collecting bucketsful of bits, bridle chains, saddle buckles and other metal parts from tack, and the park's big watering truck was used with a hose to douse still smouldering piles of hay and straw last night.
The track faces a big cleanup job in the burned out area, which is littered with corrugated iron roofing, piles of ashes and trash and partially burned timber.