Two horses died in a barn fire on the backstretch of Belmont Park in New York on Tuesday, the New York Racing Association announced.
According to the Associated Press (h/t USA Today), the NYRA said it responded to the fire at 6:05 p.m. ET and was able to evacuate 58 of the 60 horses inside.
"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," NYRA president and CEO Dave O'Rourke said. "That collective dedication and sense of community was on display this evening, when the heroic and selfless response of so many prevented further loss and saved the lives of dozens of horses."
The horses were working with trainers Wayne Potts and Jeffrey Englehart, with the two that died belonging to Potts.
The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, and officials with the New York State Fire Marshall and Nassau County are investigating. The fire was contained to just one of the 63 barns at the park and was extinguished within minutes.
According to David Grening of Daily Racing Form, it's the third fire in the last 35 years at Belmont. Forty-five horses died in a fire in 1986. Another three died during a fire in 1999.
Potts stabled in New York for the first time this winter. He has yet to publicly comment.
The horse racing world will descend on Belmont Park in full come the first weekend in June as the 2021 Belmont Stakes returns to the final leg of the Triple Crown after the pandemic forced the racing season to readjust its schedule.