Unfortunately for the veteran trainer, a devastating inferno that engulfed one of three barns at his Mercury Equine Center shortly after midnight Saturday was all too real, resulting in the deaths of 23 Thoroughbreds. Other horses were later found wandering about the property.

"They were heroes, the people who work for me", Reed told the paper.

Brenklin said he saved at least seven horses, and the center's owner, Eric Reed, said workers rescued as many as they could before flames overtook the structure.

Thirteen horses were saved, including a thoroughbred named Old Fashioned, valued at well over $100,000, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. "The barn started collapsing and we just had to call it off". According to Mr. Reed's statement, the fire spread out quickly and the only thing anyone could see was a cloud of dark smoke and raging flames. Reed estimates about a dozen horses survived.

Reed said most of the horses in the barn were yearlings, but included among the horses that perished was Sombree, a stakes-winning daughter of Eskendereya who had been entered in next month's Keeneland January horses of all ages sale.

About 50 horses in other barns at the facility were unharmed.

Debris lies on the ground after a fire at the Mercury Equine Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016.

"My night watchman gave me a holler at 12.45am and said the barn was on fire, he thought it had been hit by lightning".

Chief Best said arson investigators are probing the scene and interviewing eye witnesses to determine what might have caused the fire. Furthermore, another one was scheduled to race on Monday, December 19 in Ohio.