The New York Times called it a fiery crash, and photos from the scene were horrifying. The tractor-trailer carrying 10 racehorses from Florida to New York hit a concrete median on the New Jersey Turnpike just after 3am local time and burst into flames.
None of the horses survived.
Everyone involved, as well as horse racing fans around America, were devastated at the news. From Sallee Horse Vans that transported the horses to the Clement Stable expecting the horses, and from West Point Thoroughbreds that had two horses in the van to the New Jersey State Police responding to the scene, the news and images were upsetting.
This happened, too, just as horse racing began to resume around the United States after months of shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The initial Associated Press report was short and succinct. The trailer carrying horses crashed in the early morning hours of Sunday, and it burst into flames, killing all 10 horses. The truck struck the concrete divider and “became fully engulfed in flames, killing the animals in the attached trailer.”
The driver and passenger were taken to a hospital without serious injuries.
More information followed throughout the day on Sunday.
The New York Times provided more details. The 10 horses were traveling from Florida to New York via Sallee Horse Vans. West Point Thoroughbreds confirmed that two horses with champion bloodlines were among them and had just raced in Florida. They were headed home to their stable in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Christoph Clement trained all of the 10 horses at the Clement Racing Stable in Payson Park, Florida.
Statements from Parties
Clement confirmed the crash and noted their devastation and heartbreak. “We are working to understand what happened,” read the tweet.
This morning we learned from Sallee that a van carrying horses to our barn in NY caught on fire. We understand both drivers were admitted to hospital, and that all horses have passed. We are all devastated by the news and heartbroken – we are working to understand what happened.
— Christophe Clement Racing (@clementstable) June 7, 2020
West Point confirmed the loss of two of its horses, Hot Mist and Under the Oaks. Its tweet noted gratitude that the drivers were okay.
Sad to share that two WPT fillies were among the @clementstable horses in the tragic van accident this morning. Rest easy Hot Mist & Under the Oaks. Condolences to her Partners, the Clement team,& all those who loved the 🐴 who perished. Very glad the drivers are ok. 💔 pic.twitter.com/btJGyppf9l
— West Point Tbred (@westpointtbred) June 7, 2020
Sallee released a statement on Sunday morning that read, in part: “While our drivers attempted to rescue the horses, it was not possible. Both drivers have been taken to the hospital, one driver has been released, and the other is being treated for smoke inhalation.” Further, the statement noted that “two horses escaped; one died outside the van, and the other had to be humanely put to sleep.”
All parties appear to be working with the police to determine the cause of and more details about what is being characterized as an accident.
Two Horse Obituaries and More to Come
The two deceased West Point fillies were Hot Mist and Under the Oaks.
Hot Mist foaled in February 2017 to proud parents Tonalist and Hot Stones. She began training on April 13 at Payson Park and did particularly well into May. At Tampa Bay Downs on May 16, she ran a maiden special weight and took her route along the rail. The battle was tight with Bok Choy, but Hot Mist prevailed and won her first race for $12,000.
Born in January 2017, Under the Oaks was the offspring of American Pharoah and Maybellene, the latter a mare by Lookin At Lucky.
Under the Oaks had just run at Gulfstream Park on May 30, finishing sixth in the maiden special weight turf race. After bumping with another horse at the start of the race, she fell behind but improved on the rail after six furlongs. She had trained at Payson Park, recording workouts since April 20 that showed significant improvements over the course of a month.
The identities of the other eight horses remain unknown but will likely be revealed this week.