04/16/2011 3:40PM

Six racehorses bound for New York die in van fire

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After a difficult winter, trainer Richard Schosberg thought he finally had some reason for optimism. Schosberg and a few friends - several new to the sport - got together to buy a son of Malibu Moon at the recent Ocala Breeders Sales’s 2-year-old-in-training auction for a reasonable price of $60,000.

The horse was scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon along with five horse - all believed to be 2-year-olds - that were going to other trainers.

But late Friday night, a fire broke out on the horse van transporting those horses from Ocala, Fla., to New York and all six horses were killed, according to published reports out of North Carolina, where the fire took place on Interstate 95.

According to WRAL.com, a television station’s website in North Carolina, state troopers said a discarded cigarette from a passing vehicle likely flew into one of the partially open stalls of the horse van, setting fire to the hay. The report said that one of the two people who were in the cab of the truck - which Daily Racing Form learned was operated by Lorraine Horse Transport - suffered burns in an attempt to put out the fire.

Mike Reilly, the president of Lorraine Horse Transport, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The news reports said there were six horses on the truck. Daily Racing Form confirmed the identity of four of the six. In addition to Schosberg’s horse, two juvenile fillies bound for Mike Hushion - one by Honour and Glory owned by Barry Schwartz and one by Smoke Glacken owned by Black Swan Stable - and a Forest Wildcat colt owned by Steve Schoenfeld scheduled to go to Rudy Rodriguez, were also on the van.

Schosberg said many of the partners on the Malibu Moon colt were people he met at a gym where he works out. Schosberg said many were scheduled to come by the barn Sunday morning to see the colt.

“It was a bunch of guys and their families getting involved in racing, some for the first time, some who had dabbled before,’’ Schosberg said Saturday. “It’s a tragic beginning for some of them. It’s hard for them to comprehend and understand, it’s hard for me to comprehend and understand. ... We thought we got a real nice horse at a real nice price.’’

Earlier this year, Giant Moon, one of Schosberg’s better older horses, died due to laminitis.

Barry Eisaman, a veterinarian who owns Eisaman Equine, a sales agency which consigned the Malibu Moon colt, said he met Schosberg’s partners and noted how enthusiastic they were about getting into the game.

“We have pictures of them all on the day they bought this horse at OBS,’’ Eisaman said. “When Richard called this morning, he said the guys were all planning to meet the van at Belmont to see the horse unload. He was a gorgeous animal, and it's just a gut-wrenching, sickening feeling to have that happen to anybody's horses, let alone one you just led on there yesterday. 

“This horse was a wonderful young prospect, and he was carrying the hopes of new Thoroughbred racehorse owners, who now must wonder whether this happens all the time and why it happened to them,’’ Eisaman said. “Of course it doesn't happen all the time, but why it happened, you can't answer that question.’’

- additional reporting by Glenye Cain Oakford

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