Two horses were killed and a third was badly burned Tuesday night in a fire in a barn at Belmont Park Race Track, an NYRA official said.
Three civilians sustained minor injuries, according to a county fire official.
The fire was reported at Barn No. 8 at 6:27 p.m., according to a Nassau County fire dispatcher. It was ruled under control about 8:30 p.m.
The horses killed were a 2-year-old filly and a 3-year-old gelding trained by James Toner, according to someone close to the investigation who asked not to be identified. The horses were not immediately identified by the New York Racing Association.
The barn, which is a receiving barn for horses not usually stabled at the track, had a lot fewer horses in it than normal because there is no racing at the track on Monday and Tuesday.
"We lost two and one was seriously hurt and a few others were probably affected as well by smoke inhalation," NYRA fire marshal Kenny Kopp said. "To speculate how it happened would be an injustice."
Fire companies from four nearby towns and the track's own emergency service responded to the alarm.
"The response was very quick and the sprinklers in the barn worked," Kopp said. "People from track and those responding from outside very slowly took the horses out."
Ronnie Hardin, a groom for trainer Pat Kelly whose horses are in the barn next to the one that caught fire, was among the first people on the scene.
"All of a sudden there was this blaze in J.J.'s barn," he said, referring to Toner. "It was in the ceiling of the stalls. It shot from one end to the other and the barn was all blackened. When I went through I saw a horse lying burnt and didn't go for that one but we got one out and the one we got out his face was all burnt. We walked him until someone took him from us."
"I just had to go in and get those horses. They're in captivity behind that webbing and can't do anything."
On Jan. 15, 1996, What an Evening, a 3-year-old colt, was killed in a Belmont stable fire that he started when he reared and toppled a heat lamp which set some hay on fire.
On Jan. 15, 1996, 45 horses were killed when a fire swept through a barn at Belmont. A month-long investigation never determined a cause for the fire although a heat lamp in a stall where hay was piled too high was considered a possibility.
John Campo trained 36 of the horses that died in the fire, including four offspring of Pleasant Colony, winner of the 1981 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
More than 2,000 horses are kept in 64 barns at the sprawling 430-acre complex, the largest race track in the nation.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed