Update: Tragic Fire At Classy Lane

Published: January 5, 2016 01:04 am EST

A barn fire at Classy Lane Training Centre in Puslinch, Ont. started at roughly 11 p.m. on Monday, January 4 and claimed the lives of more than 40 horses. Trot Insider can confirm the names of the 39 Standardbred racehorses, 1 Thoroughbred, and 3 Miniatures, that perished. The list includes millionaire pacer Apprentice Hanover.

An article by the CBC states that firefighters from five departments – including Hamilton, Guelph and Cambridge – were called to the blaze and that there is no word at this point as to what caused the deadly fire.

Trot Insider has learned that the fire destroyed Barn 1, which housed horses trained by Ben Wallace, Roger Mayotte, Chantal Mitchell, Kris Di Cenzo, Dan Lagace and Floyd Amos.

On Wednesday, the names of all 43 horses that perished in the blaze were confirmed, including 39 Standardbreds. The list of the names of horses that lost their lives in the blaze appears below.

Floyd Amos Stable

Kris Di Cenzo Stable

  • Beautiful Vista, owned by Kris & Anthony Di Cenzo, Hamilton; John Baldasty, Oakville, Ont.

  • Distant Cam, owned by Madith Peterson, Oakville, Ont.

  • Lost Glory, owned by Madith Peterson, Oakville, Ont.

  • No Serious Matter, owned by Kris Di Cenzo, Hamilton; John Baldasty, Oakville, Ont.

Dan Lagace Stable

Roger Mayotte Stable

  • Dreamliner (Owned by Just In Time Stable [Mississauga, Ont.] and The Fine Whine Stable [Toronto, Ont.])

  • Georges Legacy (Ross Warriner, Doug Millard, Louis Liebenau, Ben Mudry and Roger Mayotte)

  • Vintage Rose (Owned by Gary G. Smith [Burlington, Ont.])

  • Weight Time (Owned by Just In Time Stable [Mississauga, Ont.])

Chantal Mitchell Stable

  • Body Balance, owned by Doug Millard, Woodstock, Ont.

  • Conata, owned by Michel Letendre, Saint-Jude; Fernand Jodoin, St-Pie-De-Bagot, Que.

  • Edgartown, owned by M T Pockets Stables, Pompano Beach, Fl.; Chantal Mitchell, Hamilton, Ont.

  • Railee Special, bred by Ron Mersky, Paris, Ky.

  • Sky Desperado, owned by Chantal Mitchell, Hamilton, Ont.

  • SOS Ticket Masterowned by The Fine Whine Stable, Toronto, Ont.

  • Striking Cheetah, owned by M T Pockets Stables of Pompano Beach, Fl.

Mitchell also lost three miniature horses: Daisy, Marguerita and Sammy (owned by Mel Tilley)

Ben Wallace Stable

  • Apprentice Hanover (Owned by Bradley J. Grant [Milton, Ont.])

  • Balletonthebeach, bred by W Springtime Racing Stable, Shannon Brott of New York

  • Blue Heaven, bred by W Springtime Racing Stable, Shannon Brott of New York

  • JMR Chanel (thoroughbred; English Channel - Luxuriously, by Danzig), owned by JMR Racing Inc and Melany Micheals

  • Jewels For Rose, owned by Wallacestandardbreds Inc & James Millier, Puslinch, Ont.

  • Maching Up, owned by Wallacestandardbreds Inc, James Geis & Jeff Ruch

  • Mr King Koal, owned by Wallacestandardbreds Inc, Puslinch; Harness Horsepower Inc, Campbellville, Ont.

  • My My Hey Hey, owned by Wallacestandardbreds Inc, Puslinch, Ont; Birnam Wood Farms, Boca Raton, Fl.

  • Northern Horizon, owned by Wallacestandarbreds Inc & Northfields Farm

  • Penji Hanover, owned by W Springtime Racing Stable, Johnstown, N.Y.

  • Proven Effective (Owned by Bradley J. Grant [Milton, Ont.])

  • Sports Warning, owned by Wallacestandardbreds Inc, Puslinch, Ont.; Joie De Vie Farm LLC, Jobstown, N.J.

  • Stretch Run, owned by Wallacestandardbreds Inc & JMR Racing Inc, Puslinch, Ont.

  • Tommys Trooper, owned by Wallacestandardbreds Inc, Puslinch, Ont.

  • Whiskey N Pie (Owned by Bradley J. Grant [Milton, Ont.] and WallaceStandardbreds Inc. [Puslinch, Ont.])

  • Whistle Jimmy K (Owned by Bradley J. Grant [Milton, Ont.] and WallaceStandardbreds Inc. [Puslinch, Ont.])

Everybody in the horse racing industry is encouraged to donate funds to the affected horsepeople via an official GoFundMe page that has been set up by the Central Ontario Standardbred Association. For more on the COSA initiative, or to contact COSA, click here.

Classy Lane’s co-owner, Barb Millier, who is currently in Florida, has been cited as saying that her husband, co-owner Jamie Millier, is now trying to get back from Florida after having received the horrible news. Barb was cited as saying that it is too early to speculate as to what started the blaze.

“It’s a sad occasion,” Puslinch Fire and Rescue Service’s chief fire prevention officer, Jason Benn, said Tuesday morning. The article states that the preliminary cost of the damage is estimated to be between $4 and $6 million, and that the fire is not considered suspicious at this time.

An emotional Ben Wallace took time out of his hectic Tuesday morning to discuss the tragedy. In terms of his training business, Wallace was quoted as saying, “It’s gone. I have nothing. I have nothing. I don’t even have a stopwatch. Nothing. Anything I owned going forward, as far as my profession, is gone.” The O’Brien Award winning trainer went on to say, “It’s the horses that we lost which is the tough thing to stomach. Buildings you can build, but these athletes that we have, we love and we cherish. We work with them every day, and they’re gone.” To listen to Wallace’s interview, click here.

It took less than 24 hours for some of the major players in North American harness racing to step up and call for the industry to help support those affected by the blaze. Jeff Gural, Ron Burke, Mark Weaver, Michael Bruscemi and Tony O’Sullivan have all announced that they are doing what they can to help, and they want others to follow their lead. For complete information, click here.

The Toronto Star caught up with affected trainers Dan Lagace and Kris Di Cenzo, as well as owners Barb and Jamie Millier for comment.

“As trainers, you lost everything. You lose all your equipment, so it’s hard to know what you’re going to do next,” said Lagace, who had seven horses in his care. “The financial loss, you can build to get over. But knowing that they’re lying there, it’s heartbreaking.”

“I don’t really have a clear head right now,” said Di Cenzo. “Just a bad day, bad night. I don’t know what to say.”

Additional details will be posted when more information becomes available.

Please join Standardbred Canada in offering condolences to everyone affected by this tragedy.

(With files from CBC and 680 News)



I listened to the interview of Ben Wallace and when you hear the raw emotion in his voice your heart has to go out to Ben and the other trainers who lost everything in this tragic fire. I wish them all the best of luck going forward and hopefully with a bit of time they are all able to rebuild their racing operation.

It was with great regret that Maxxam learned of the devastating fire that occurred at Classy Lane stables in Puslinch, essentially the “back yard” of our DNA laboratory that has tested Standardbred horses for over 20 years.

Our thoughts and sympathy go out to the owners of Classy Lane and the Standardbred community during this difficult time.

Director and General Manager, Specialty Services
Maxxam Analytics - A Bureau Veritas Group Company

In reply to by Katie Gene Miller

thank you Katie for sharing Franks poem, the loss is profound, I also love all the horses just like you. To all those that have lost, I can only imagine what you are going through, it also breaks my heart in two.

Thank you Frank for sharing

The Ontario Veterinary College and Equine Guelph extends sincere condolences to the owners of Classy Lane Stables and all trainers and owners who housed horses at this facility.

"We're saddened by the devastating fire last evening at Classy Lane Stables and the horses who lost their lives in this blaze," says Ontario Veterinary College Dean Jeffrey Wichtel. "This is an immense loss to the horse-racing community. Our thoughts are with the owners, trainers, and everyone associated with the stables."

"Our sincere condolences go out to those who have lost their horses, and all who have been affected by this tragedy, says Gayle Ecker, Director of Equine Guelph. "The owners of Classy Lane, along with Ben Wallace and several other trainers there have been so supportive of the programs of Equine Guelph and we are sorry to hear of their loss."

Lost for words really. Tragic,... so tragic. Very sorry for the pain you are all going through. Our condolences and prayers go out for each of you.
Ann (Jenkins) MacNeill, PEI

On behalf of Lakeshore Horse Racing Association
The Executive, staff members and volunteers wish to express their heartfelt sympathy to all the owners, trainers, grooms and caretakers involved in this tragic event. You have all suffered such an immense loss. Our hearts are saddened by the loss of so many great athletes who were all part of your families. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you struggle to cope with this tragedy. May God bless all of you.

Frank O'Toole visited my barn this morning to repair one of my horses feet. He asked for me to share this poem he wrote.

Ashes on the floor
Devastation all around
The sadness runs so deep
The loss is profound
I'm sorry for your loss
For what you're going through
I love all horses, just like you
When they suffer, it breaks my heart in two
I pray you find the strength, to get through
And with all our help, a brighter day waits,
For you

-Frank O'Toole

No words can express the heartbreak over this tragedy... my sincere condolences go out to all these beautiful creatures and their connections... rest in peace.

To all of those affected by this horrible tragedy please accept our deepest sympathies. There are no words that will ease your pain or change what has happened, but please know you are not in this alone in this. We are all with you. Stay Strong.

Bill & Tracey Keeping

We as horsemen are a very strange group. When it comes to small issues, we rarely agree on almost anything. Yet when a calamity such as this strikes us, we manage to come together and do our best to help our brethren who are hurting.
Make no mistake about it, all those involved, from owners, trainers, grooms and the ownership of Classy Lane are hurting desperately as is everybody involved to a lesser extent in this great sport of ours.
In a little more than a day, tens of thousands of dollars and several funds have been established to help the victims of this crisis. From several gofund sites to numerous people such as Jeff Gural; the Burkes and their owners; Tony O'Sullivan; Yannick Gingras; Andy and Julie Miller and undoubtedly numerous others whose names I am unaware of and others who will be donating in the days and weeks to come.
The people directly affected desperately need our help, sooner rather than later.
If you've got a horse or two that could use a trainer, some extra equipment, a job opening or two for a groom or some money that you can donate or pledge that can help please do so

My condolences to all the connections of these magnificent horses and to all who witnessed this tragedy. As a young boy I witnessed a barn fire with my mother and three sisters. I remember firemen trying to keep the cows and horses from running back into the barn. One horse in particular ran back to the barn and I remember my older sister screaming and jumping out of the car. "I have to save that horse!", she said. My mom told us to stay in the car as she went after my sister. Any loss of life under these circumstances is very tragic. The On-track racing safety over the years has improved with the removal of the hub rail and the quick hitch harness. The industry as a whole will need to find improvements for housing horses. Maybe by using different building materials and perhaps different barn sizes. The building's maximum capacity should be changed to hold 24 horses, 12 on each side with a walkway/large work-place through the middle. All of these stalls could use rear spring-loaded access doors in case of a fire. The rear doors would be an escape route for the horses to get to the field and also they could be used in an attempt to rescue.

A terrible tragedy...condolences to all...will miss watching Apprentice Hanover thundering down the stretch...very sad.

There will always be heartless ignorant people in this world. This tragedy was more than the small minded fools who post this crap have the heart or intelligence to understand. I too had a loss at the barn and am devastated by the magnitude of the horrific circumstance of how these incredible creatures died.

Run Free

These athletes pounding the track with such style, beauty and grace,
The incredible speed, the flawless motion, brings a smile to my face.
The sheer will and determination to excel, and the freedom to just run,
The days spent at the barns, the road trips to the track were so much fun.
Today an awkward silence is in the air, and I don't hear the hooves at all,
My eyes swell up, my heart aches, and I just want to sit silently and ball.
I find little words to console all the people involved in this tragic day,
I pray and hope through whatever means they will once again find their way.
This industry has endured so much pain but like a family you refuse to fall,
With the help of friends, family and strangers you will once again stand tall.
When the smoke settles you will rise from the ashes to do what you do best,
Once again you will hear the hooves pounding the track with grace and zest.

Words are not enough. We all fear this terrible and horrific tragedy. The loss of life in such a frightening way is overwhelming and so many of us feel the pain that the people involved are going through. My condolences to all and may you have the courage and strength to rebuild. The standardbred industry needs you.
We have some harnesses that we are not using and would like to donate them plus some other equipment to the folks involved if they have any use for them. I have contacted OHHA about doing this. This could be an option for others who have excess equipment and supplies.

I can't even imagine how all those connected feel. My heart goes out to you all.
Thoughts and prayers with you.

It is with overwhelming sadness I am sending my sincere condolences to Classy Lane and all of the caregivers, trainers, and owners of these beautiful horses. Tragic loss for harness racing and the people involved with these horses.

I was sickened to hear of this tragedy. My very sincere condolences to the owners, trainers, grooms and farm owners. This grave loss of so many equine athletes is heartbreaking! May they rest in peace.

Conata was probably the prettiest roan filly I have ever seen. I'll miss watching her greatly. I feel awful for all those poor animals and their connections.

So tragic. Our condolences to the owners, trainers and grooms who loved and worked with their equine family every day. There are no words.

My heart breaks after hearing about this today & all the people involved & beautiful horses that were lost....this goes out to Premier Kathleen Wynne..don't you think it's time to step up & get off your a** & help out these people in time of need & do something for once...You've buried the industry..so why not try & make some kind of effort & help out the industry now?

Bill and Marilyn Kolkea 's hearts go out to all the trainers groom and and owners who lost horses at Classy Lane it's a sad day for the horse industry

I cant imagine how I would feel just to lose ONE of my horses. We get very attached, and, speaking for myself, I love them and dont want anything bad to happen to any horse in my care . A VERY sad occurrence and I hope my fellow horsemen come through (Like they always do) and help those in need after this tragedy...

So heart wrenching hearing this news, thoughts are with all the owners,trainers, grooms and anyone else associated with these beautiful animals! I cant wait to see all trainers and owners rebound and get back racing very soon! This is the best industry in the world, with the help of others I hope all can heal from this tragedy!

Such a tragic loss for all those involved, and the industry as a whole. My deepest sympathies to all the owners, trainers and grooms.

On behalf of Mark Williams, he sends his heartfelt condolences to all those who were involved in this very tragic event. His thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

Sending sincere heartfelt condolences to our fellow horsemen on this tragic day.
Julie Ferguson / Ted McDonald

Words can not express the feelings of sadness I have reading this article. Our condolences go out to all the people that lost a horse. God Bless.

Such a heart sickening tragedy for all horses and people concerned. My condolences to the Milliers, the owners and the trainers at Classy Lane. My thoughts are with you.

What a terrible loss. Our heartfelt condolences go out to all trainers, owners and grooms. Can't imagine!

My heart just sunk when I read this news on facebook it is devestating to an industry that we as a family have been involved in for 45yrs. My heart goes out to everybody involved with these horses which become more like family everyday that we take care of them. Please know that you and your horses are in our thoughts .I just know how we would feel if it were our horses .From the family of R Shooter Graham May God bless you and take care of you.

What a terrible loss. Our heartfelt condolences go out to all trainers, owners and grooms.Can't imagine it.

We are so sad to here of this tragedy. I can not believe the pain that the ones concerned must be going through. God bless everyone concerned, human and equine.

Went through the Barn fire at Mohawk in early 90's and have yet to get over that one. My worst nightmare. Our condolences to everyone.

Every horsemans worst nightmare has come true for those involved in this tragedy. In an industry where animal lovers find a lifetime of fulfillment this is especially tragic. My heart bleeds for those who have been affected as I know this loss of loved ones is beyond words at this time.

So sorry to all the owners, trainers, grooms....Terrible, thoughts and prayers to everyone. Hope someone can start a fund for donations.

Barry and I are so saddened by this devastating news. Our thoughts and prayers are with the trainers, owners and grooms at this most difficult time.

Worst nightmare. Heartfelt condolence extended to everyone involved in this tragic event.
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Don Hall

I am very sorry to hear of this tragedy. My condolences to everyone who lost a horse at Classy Lane.