A California wildfire tore through a training centre for elite race horses in San Diego County, killing some while others were able to sprint to safety.

There was no official count of animals killed in the hazy confusion as both horses and humans evacuated, but trainers at San Luis Rey Downs estimated that at least a dozen had died, possibly far more.

Horses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars were simply set free from their stables to flee.

San Luis Rey Downs is home to horses that run at nearby Del Mar, where the Breeders’ Cup was held just give weeks ago,  and other top-flight racetracks like Santa Anita Park.

Doug O’Neill, whose horses have won the Kentucky Derby, is among the trainers who keep horses there.

Trainer Dan Dunham reported that some horses were discovered dead on the track at San Luis Rey, while they were trying to round up loose horses. He thinks they probably died from smoke inhalation. He’s not sure how many.

Trainer Scott Hansen said he doesn’t know which of his 30 horses are dead, and which are alive, and he may not know until morning.

Hall Of Fame traioner Richard Mandella, who had a string at San Luis Rey, commented:“I have horses with Michelle Dollase there. I got good news about 30 minutes ago that they’re on the way to Del Mar. We’re very lucky, but feel for those who weren’t as fortunate.”

Del Mar’s George Bradvica, who is coordinating the volunteer effort there, says there will be a need for volunteers  at Del Mar. They’ll be assigning people to shedrows to watch horses for signs of colic, and to make sure they all have water.

Del Mar racing secretary David Jerkens said there are now 250 evacuated Thoroughbreds at the track.

WTOP.com,and thanks to Jeremy Balan on Twitter.

 

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