CHAMPION trainer Willie Mullins lost three young horses who were spooked by a massive thunderstorm at his Co Carlow yard.
A lightning storm broke out directly over a field at Mr Mullins's yard in Closutton, Bagenalstown causing the animals to flee in panic.
One of the horses bolted into a tree and died instantly, while two more had to be put down after sustaining injuries.
"It was one of those things. The animals were frightened by the lightning and the wind and by the huge rain and thunder that night," Mr Mullins told the Herald.
"The first one was killed by running into a tree which you get a lot of in the fields. It was found dead. The next one was so badly injured it was destroyed on humane grounds.
"The third one was not badly injured but had to undergo a general anaesthetic to help clean the wounds.
"The prognosis was very good but it was just a freak accident that it broke a leg while getting up and had to be humanely destroyed," he added.
"It's always a risk when you give a horse a general anaesthetic."
The horse may have had a stress fracture which "just gave out when it was getting up", he added.
The animals were a broodmare and two two-year-olds who were being groomed for the racetrack.
"They were young stock. They had been broken in and we would have raced them in the following years," Mr Mullins said.
The renowned trainer hasn't yet calculated the financial loss.
"I have not looked at it. Of course it is a hit when your young stock is hit and my broodmare," said the trainer of the 2005 Grand National winner Hedgehunter and the 2011 and 2013 Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly.
"We had lots of other stock who had minor injuries but they're all fine. Lots of cuts and abrasions," he said.
"They're all fine since and they're all back out in the field."
Mr Mullins is aware of other incidents involving animals in neighbouring farms.
"In that storm in that area, I know of at least one other horse killed," he said.
"The storm just broke out right over the area. They (the animals) are well used to storms because they are out all the time but it was just the intensity of the storm (on that night) -- it broke right over the farm. It came quite suddenly as well.
"You hear storms five or 10 miles away and it doesn't bother them but it broke over the actual field," he said.