Hundreds of elite racing horses stationed at San Luis Rey Downs in San Diego County were released Thursday in hopes of escaping the flames as one of California's largest wildfires consumed the training facility.
Coaches estimate at least a dozen thoroughbreds worth hundreds of thousands of dollars have died.
The training facility is known to park high-caliber horses competing in Del Mar, Santa Anita and other high-flying California tracks. A sign outside the complex reads "Home of Azeri," a reference to the former race mare who was named Horse of the Year 2002 and earned more than $ 4 million in her career.
Mac McBride, who was working with the center's coaches, said it was "a total pandemonium when several hundred horses were cut," but he believes that most of the horses survived.
Some of the 450 horses were set up in the training facilities located near Bonsall, just a few miles from where the fire broke out, moved to a nearby track.
"There was so much smoke that it was hard to see," said horse trainer Dan Durham, who got his 20 cornered horses and was loading them in vans to be evacuated. "Some of the horses were released to be safe, they were scattered"
"There was so much smoke that it was hard to see, some of the horses were released to be safe, scattered around."
Several trainers said that some of their horses were killed at the facility.
"It was dark, everything was hot and she would not do it" I opened the pen and tried to get behind her and get her out, and she did not want to leave, "horse trainer Cliff Sise told KFMB-TV San Diego "He burned himself to death so quickly"
The Associated Press contributed to this report