BONSALL, Calif. (AP) — A routine day at an elite training center for racehorses transformed into terror and chaos in minutes, with hundreds of thoroughbreds stampeding out of their stalls in a desperate attempt to flee a Southern California wildfire that set their barns ablaze.
Turned loose by their trainers in a last-ditch effort to save their lives, the huge, muscular animals, their eyes wide with fear, charged through thick smoke and past dancing flames.
While hundreds made it to the safety of a nearby racetrack, others galloped in circles, unsure which way to run. Still others, too frightened to leave their paddocks, stayed there and died.
Workers at San Luis Rey Downs said an estimated 30 to 40 horses perished Thursday in the wildfire still raging out of control north of San Diego on Friday. At least two stable workers were injured, and their conditions were not immediately known.
Trainers described a terrifying scene that erupted at the facility Thursday afternoon, recalling how only minutes after smelling smoke, they saw flames roaring down a nearby hillside.
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