ONE of horseracing's biggest meetings of the year was abandoned in tragic circumstances after two horses were apparently electrocuted by underground cables before the first race.
The meeting at Newbury was halted after Fenix Two -- owned by JP McManus -- and Marching Song were killed by what is believed to have been an electric shock from underneath the paddock.
A further two horses were seen to be affected and a lead rein on one of the dead animals was rumoured to have shown traces of burning.
Robert Garner, part-owner of Marching Song, said: "We were in the paddock and he went down just where we were standing. He tried to get up but he couldn't -- he'd gone into rigor mortis.
"The other horse was doing the same and when they went to touch him they got an electric shock off him, and when they went to take the bridle off they got another shock. It's devastating."
Leading national hunt trainer Nicky Henderson described the accident as being "like something out of a Dick Francis novel".
"It seemed it was all happening in one area, as one of our horses, Kid Cassidy, had fallen over," Henderson said. "My daughter Tessa said: 'Dad, one of yours is down.' Thinking he was just a bit fresh, I legged AP [jockey AP McCoy] up and sent them down to the start. Then, within 30 seconds, two others were down.
"AP said he had gone down like a bolted rabbit. It's the most horrendous thing I have seen in 32 years in racing.
"It would appear to me that electrocution is the likeliest thing. When horses stepped off the rubber matting on to the grass, they didn't seem to be able to get off it."
Newbury estate manager Richard Osgood said: "We're going to hold a full inquiry and immediate post-mortems are being carried out on both the horses. I don't know of any cabling, the main electrical feed to the buildings is on the other side. This place is over 100 years old and I suppose it's possible that there might be something old, but really, I just don't know."