Two racehorses have died after a fire ripped through a straw barn at the yard of Irish trainer Pat Hughes.

More than 40 horses had to be evacuated into a field after fire broke out at Mr Hughes’ yard near Bagenalstown in Co Carlow on Saturday 22 February.

The two horses – Billy The Snake and an unnamed gelding, were both put down after injuring themselves in the panic.

The straw barn was gutted in the blaze that was fanned by strong winds, although the yard escaped any damage.

Mr Hughes was at Fairyhouse races with his only runner of the day when he learnt of the fire and immediately left the course to return home.

“It could have been a disaster but in the circumstances we were probably lucky that we just lost two,” said Mr Hughes.” A couple of other horses were slightly injured and I had to withdraw them from their planned races, but otherwise it is business as usual.”

Mr Hughes’ wife Eleanor called the fire brigade after two of the stable lads rushed over to tell her the hay barn was on fire.

The fire burned for more than three hours before fire crews finally managed to extinguish the flames.

Mr Hughes said: “There is no electricity in the barn and it definitely wasn’t malicious. It was a very windy day so something could have blown in and started the fire – but I don’t think we will ever find out what.”