(MCT) — A fire that ripped through a barn in Round Lake on Saturday afternoon killed six horses , including one that the owner said shared a bloodline with Secretariat, the famous, hulking thoroughbred that won the Triple Crown in 1973.
Owner Urbano Hernandez said he suspects that hot embers from a blaze he intentionally started earlier to clear away brush on his property may have caused the fire.
"I think it was the wind," he said Sunday. "The fire went so fast."
Hernandez said when he saw the dark gray smoke rising in plumes from the other end of his property, he ran toward the stable.
"By the time I got back, the flames were eight feet high," he said, shaking his head.
He was able to rescue only three of the nine horses trapped in the barn, Hernandez said.
"I ended up coming out on my hands and knees," he said. The fire singed the hair from his lower arms and left his hands burned and swollen.
Round Lake firefighters arrived at the scene about 1:30 p.m., when the structure was completely engulfed, officials said. It took about 30 minutes for them to put it out. One firefighter suffered minor injuries, was taken to the hospital and later released, officials said.
Secret Slewrisky, one of six horses killed in the fire, shared a genetic lineage with Secretariat, Hernandez said. "It was my dream was to create another Secretariat," he said.
Another stud horse, named A.P. Indy Prince, was a descendant of the race horse A.P. Indy, who was sired by 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. The four other horses killed were female horses that Hernandez had selected to breed. One, he said, was pregnant.
"I picked this mare to create a great race horse, the next Secretariat," he said.
Kate Tweedy, a board member of the Secretariat Foundation and author of the book "Secretariat's Meadow," said such a combination could have resulted in greatness.
"That's incredible," she said. "If he did have a grandson or great grandson son of Secretariat and anther from Seattle Slew, that's a double dose of Triple Crown winners."
On Sunday, one of the three horses Hernandez rescued from the flames pawed nervously at the wet ground in an outdoor enclosure, whinnying while a crew of men worked to clear away refuse.
Hernandez works as a landscaper. But his passion is horse breeding, he said.
"It started out as a hobby and became a business," said Hernandez, explaining that his father had been a veterinarian. "But these losses, they put you out of business."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Round Lake fire officials said.