A fire at an equestrian centre has left 23 horses dead.

The blaze caused devastation at racehorse training yard Mercury Equine Center, Lexington, Kentucky, on 18 December.

The fire broke out at around 1.15am.

23 horses died, most of who were yearlings.

One of the horses killed was a three-year-old filly who recently won $100,000 in a stakes race. Another horse was scheduled to race the following day in Ohio.

13 horses were saved from the fire and around 50 horses in other barns were unharmed.

‘They were heroes’

The barn that caught fire had already collapsed when firefighters arrived, according to yard owner Eric Reed.

“While we were waiting, we were in the barn, running in the flames and smoke, saving horses,” he told local press.

“They were heroes, the people who work for me. They went above and beyond what I could even imagine anybody trying to do.”

Mr Reed said it will cost about $1 million (£815,000) to rebuild the barn and another $100,000 to $200,000 (£81,000- £163,000) to replace equipment and feed.

He said he could not put a price on the horses lost.

“I’ll never get this nightmare out of my mind,” he added.

Investigation

The cause of the fire is under investigation by Lexington Fire Department.

“We are looking into every possibility,” said a spokesman from the fire department.

Friends of the Reed family have set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for equipment, such as rugs and headcollars, and care of the surviving horses.

“All funds raised will go towards replacing urgently needed equipment lost, medical needs of the horses, hay and straw,” the page says.

“Thank you very much as any amount will help get these horses the urgent care they need.”