Six horses died in a barn fire in Chester County early yesterday, but a groom and two riders rescued five terrified horses - including a candidate for the 2012 Olympics, authorities said.

The rescued horses were taken to the University of Pennsylvania's large-animal hospital, New Bolton Center, in Kennett Square, where a spokeswoman said she couldn't disclose their conditions because of privacy issues.

However, a competitive-riding website called Eventing Nation quoted Boyd Martin, who was training the horses, as saying that one of them, Neville Bardos, was in intensive care for smoke inhalation; that another, Catch a Star, was in intensive care with burns, and that Otis Barbotiere and a fourth horse were receiving fluids. Details about the fifth rescued horse weren't immediately available.

Groom and assistant rider Lillian Heard reported that she smelled smoke about 12:30 a.m., while staying with riders Caitlin Silliman and Ryan Wood in an apartment above the barn, on Hood Road near West Grove, in Chester County's horse country.

Despite Heard's efforts, her own horse, Ariel, was among the six killed.

The rescuers were able to bring Silliman's Catch a Star out of the barn at True Prospect Farm, owned by another trainer, Phillip Dutton. The steeds were being housed for training in special competitions called three-day eventing by Martin, part owner of two of the surviving horses, Neville Bardos and Otis Barbotiere.

Neville Bardos is a candidate for the Olympics, said Martin's spokeswoman, Amber Heintzberger.

The three rescuers were treated for minor injuries.