A STAG may have been responsible for the incident at trainer James McAuley’s North Co Dublin yard this week which saw 17 of his racehorses gallop loose on a public road with two of them suffering fatal injuries.

McAuley was at Gowran Park on Tuesday when he was alerted that a large number of geldings had broken down a gate and escaped from their paddock in Naul and were running alongside traffic on the road. Some ran for eight kilometres but, incredibly, none of them collided with a vehicle or person.

All 17 horses were recovered but two had to be put down. Another four have been sent for veterinary treatment but are expected to make a full recovery.

Speaking to The Irish Field yesterday, McAuley said he does not know why the horses fled their paddock where they graze every day after exercise. “Something spooked them. It wasn’t vandals or thieves - our yard is at the end of a lane and there is only one way out - but a neighbour told me there have been sightings of a wild stag in the area. That’s just a theory at the moment.”

The trainer is very grateful to his neighbours for their assistance this week, especially fellow trainer Garvan Donnelly.

“Garvan was very hands-on in catching the horses. Without him and others, it could have been a lot worse. We’ve just sent four of the horses to Limerick for veterinary attention, but most of the others are back in their paddock and they seem comfortable and relaxed.”

McAuley is a frequent visitor to the winner’s enclosure. He trained 12 winners during the latest all-weather championship, finishing second in the table, and he had his first winner of the turf flat season at Gowran Park on Tuesday.