Five horses used in harness racing have died in a stable fire in Australia. Police are treating the blaze as suspicious.

A block of 16 stables was destroyed at Leeton racecourse in Riverina, New South Wales at 4.10am on Tuesday (21 August).

Two of the standardbred horses escaped the fire unhurt.

Trainer Phil Maguire lost three horses including Garry Kelly, a five-year-old champion gelding. He also lost Centaury and Provence.

Fellow trainer John Kefford lost two horses – Candys Art and Captain Stapleton.

Firecrews put out the blaze and worked to contain the fire to stop it setting alight three other blocks, just six metres away.

“The radiant heat had just set their rugs alight and their tails alight and we were trying to extinguish them while we were getting them out,” Captain Graham Parks told Australian press.

“The horses were that stressed and stirred up they were knocking firemen over. It was just chaos.

“To see animals trapped in a fire like that, that can’t get out and can’t help themselves. It’s a pretty cruel way to go.

Police are investigating.