Lexington Barn Fire Leaves 23 Horses Dead

23 Horses Perish and 13 Others Saved in Mercury Equine Center Fire

A sad report from Lexington, KY where 23 horses died early Sunday morning when a fire engulfed a barn at the Mercury Equine Center. Lightning storms were present in the area, and an apparent electrical issue caused the fire at the center, which has three barns, 160 stalls and over 100 thoroughbreds.

The devastating damage is estimated at over $1.2 million to rebuild the barn and replace supplies and equipment. But the loss of 23 horses is heartbreaking and without a price.

Smoldering Scene at Mercury Equine Center

Trainer Eric Reed, who owns the Mercury Equine Center and was on hand to help save 13 other horses with five colleagues, praised his workers for their bravery.

“They were heroes, the people who work for me,” Reed said. “They went above and beyond what I could even imagine anybody trying to do. We ran into the barn, the smoke was so black we couldn’t even see. The only thing you could see was the flames.”

Most of the horses were yearlings who “were very well-bred,” Reed said. One of the horses killed included a 3-year-old filly who had recently won $100,000 in a stakes race, Reed said.

“I’ll never get this nightmare out of my mind,” Reed said.

The barn was listed as the John T. Ward Stables, which is located behind Keeneland Race Course and across Rice Road from Keeneland Gate 3.

The fire and incident is under investigation, but Reed has been notifying the horse owners, who live in California, Ohio and Texas. He said more horses could have been saved, but the fire department did not respond in a timely manner.

“There’s a fire station five minutes down the road but it took 39 minutes before they could get there to help us,” Reed said. “We actually called 911 twice asking where is the fire department. It’s absolutely unacceptable. … The fire department really let us down.”

On Monday afternoon, Mayor Jim Gray’s spokeswoman, Susan Straub, said that an analysis of 911 records showed that it took about 20 minutes for the fire department to be dispatched and arrive at Mercury.

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