A pair of racehorses died and three men were injured when a fire broke out in a barn on the backstretch of Belmont Park, officials announced.
First responders were dispatched to the track at approximately 6:05 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13 when there was a fire reported inside the stables at the track on Hempstead Turnpike.
In total, 58 of the 60 horses under the care of trainers Wayne Potts and Jeffrey Englehart were safely evacuated, according to the New York Racing Association (NYRA), though two died in the fire.
During the fire, three men, ages 57, 39, and 21, were treated at the scene for minor smoke inhalation while the two horses were pronounced dead as a result of the fire.
Crews from the Elmont, Valley Stream, and Floral Park Fire Departments all responded to the track to knock down the fire. No other injuries were reported. Nassau County Police Bomb Squad Detectives, Nassau, and New York State Fire Marshals all also responded to the scene.
According to the NYRA, the fire was restricted to Barn 60, there were no reported injuries to barn staff or NYRA employees.
“The tragic loss of both horses will be deeply felt by the hard-working women and men of the New York racing community, who dedicate themselves to the sport and to the care of these equine athletes,” Dave O’Rourke, NYRA President and CEO said.
“That collective dedication and sense of community were on display this evening, when the heroic and selfless response of so many prevented further loss and saved the lives of dozens of horses.”
Both horses belonged to Potts, who confirmed their deaths on social media following the fire.
“I wanted to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who assisted in removing my horses from the fire this evening," he posted on Facebook. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart to every single one of you that put yourselves at risk to make sure 58 horses are able to see another day.
“The actions of so many this evening proved that this industry is a family with a fierce love of the horse that triumphs over anything else.”
One horse, Beastie D, was a recent purchase out of Florida, while the other, American Sailor, was “a part of (Potts’) family and had been in the heart of training.
“I am heartbroken to say that Beastie D and American Sailor were both unable to be saved and perished. Beastie D, a 3-year-old Verrazano colt, was a recent purchase from the sale in Ocala,” he said. “While we didn't have him long, his presence was felt as he was an individual with an abundance of class and potential.”
Potts called American Sailor “the pride and joy” of his stable.
“American Sailor was a part of my family and took my operation to a new level. We were preparing for a 9-year-old campaign and he had been training fantastic. This was a horse that owed me absolutely nothing. He was the pride and joy of my stable and was the horse that took me places in my career that I had only ever dreamed of going.
“'Sailor' was so loved by everyone that worked with and around him,” Potts added. “He was one of the sweetest horses to be around in the stall, but when he stepped foot on the track he was nothing but business. He was family. “
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Check Daily Voice for new information as updates are released.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.