By Gina Cherelus
(Reuters) - A fire tore through a barn at a thoroughbred training center near Lexington, Kentucky, killing almost two dozen horses, the owner and local law enforcement said on Monday.
The blaze broke out early Sunday morning inside a yearling horse barn at the Mercury Equine Center, according to Lexington Fire Department Chief Joe Best. Lexington, the second-largest city in Kentucky, calls itself "the horse capital of world."
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The center's owner, Eric Reed, said 36 young horses were in the barn at the time, and that staff were able to rescue only 13 of them.
"The barn is actually still smoldering right now," Reed told Reuters by telephone. "Carcasses haven't been removed yet until the investigation is over."
Reed said there was a big storm that night and that he thought the building may have been struck by lightning.
Chief Best said arson investigators are probing the scene and interviewing eye witnesses to determine what might have caused the fire.
Operations at the 60-acre facility, where race horses are trained and treated, were back to normal on Monday.
"Today we had 60 other horses to train, so we had to get back to the basics and get back to work," Reed said.
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Dan Grebler)