03/24/2006 1:00AM

Fire kills 24 horses in New Jersey


A barn fire that was likely caused by an electrical malfunction killed 24 Standardbred horses early Friday morning at Perretti Farms in central New Jersey.

According to reports, the fire, which was reported to local authorities at 12:50 a.m., killed 12 mares and 12 foals, all of whom were boarded in the 12-stable barn. The horses likely died of smoke inhalation, according to reports.

At a news conference Friday morning, state police officials said that while they were still investigating the cause of the fire, they believed that the blaze began in the wiring that controlled the receiving barn's feeding and watering systems. The barn did not have sprinklers, the police said.

Perretti Farms did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

One of the mares who died, My Starchip, had won more than $300,000 on the track, including the 2002 Hambletonian Oaks.