A fire at a top harness racing yard in Ontario, Canada, has killed more than 40 horses.

Firefighters from five different departments were called to Jamie and Barb Miller’s Classy Lane Stables on Monday night (4 January) where they found one of five large barns ablaze (not pictured — stock image used).

The horses killed were all Standardbreds, owned by trainers who raced them at some of southern Ontario’s best-known tracks, including Mohawk, Woodbine and Flamboro Downs.

The cause of the fire is not yet known but its ferocity was such that fire crews were still at the scene in the early hours of the following morning.

Puslinch Fire & Rescue officer Jason Benn told local media: “It took around five hours to combat the fire to bring it to a controllable stage. Freezing temperatures made it more difficult.”

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The Millers were abroad at the time, but were expected to return on Tuesday. Mrs Miller told The Canadian Press that she is unsure of the exact number of horses that died, but estimates that it was at least 43.

The multi-million dollar Classy Lane Stables opened in 2003. It was home to around 222 horses and has facilities including a seven-eighths mile track, a one-third mile sand jog track, wash rooms, a swimming pool, a tack shop, a blacksmith and vet on site and 31 paddocks.

Trainer George Peters’ testimony on the stable’s website reads: “Classy Lane is the place to be. The name is appropriate from the people on down to the facilities. Everything we need is here, including the best racetrack in Ontario.”

Mr Peters, who trained Glorys Comet to win 56 races and more than $2 million in prizemoney in the late 1990s, is one of nine trainers based at the stable.