Officials with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture June 29 charged trainer Maria Borell and her father, Charles "Chuck" Borell, each with 43 counts of second-degree cruelty to animals in connection with the apparent abandonment of horses at a 121-acre farm in Central Kentucky.
According to Dr. Robert Stout, the Kentucky state veterinarian, Chuck Borell was taken into custody and turned over to the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department and a warrant was issued for Maria Borell's arrrest.
According to KRS 525.130, second-degree animal cruelty is a Class A misdemeanor.
Chuck Borell, 69, showed up at the Mercer County farm Wednesday, but was unable to gain access because the gates were locked. He was taken into custody not long afterward and is lodged in the Boyle County Detention Center without bond. His hearing in Mercer District Court is scheduled for July 5.
Stout said the charges came about after a determination was made that the Borells were the party responsible for the horses.
Shane Mitchell, the agriculture department investigator handling the case, said the investigation is ongoing and there are additional elements to the case to be sorted out as far as the charges go, but that there was sufficient evidence to charge Maria Borell in addition to her father.
Mitchell said investigators are trying to determine Maria Borell’s location so she can be taken into custody.
Since early June, state agriculture department officials have been working with volunteers and other equine organizations to care for the horses, some of which were in poor health, after they were apparently abandoned.
The horses’ plight was described in an article by Margaret Ransom at USRacing.com, which reported the property had been leased by Chuck Borell, whose daughter, Maria Borell, saddled Gallery Furniture Stable’s Runhappy to win last year’s TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I). Maria Borell was subsequently dismissed as Gallery Furniture’s trainer and has filed litigation against owner James McIngvale.
“Though the owner of the horses is believed to be either Maria Borell and/or her father, for months the pair have pointed fingers back and forth regarding the ownership status of the horses, as well as who is responsible for their care,” US Racing reported.
The situation intensified June 27, when Victoria Keith posted photographs on the Fox Hill Farm website of some of the horses on the farm, pledging support from herself and Fox Hill owner Rick Porter in trying to get the horses relocated.
On Monday, a team of veterinarians inspected and evaluated each of the horses and the following day went about the process of removing six deemed to require an elevated level of veterinary care. The assessment revealed that three were emaciated, 10 were underweight, 14 were of suitable weight, and eight were overweight.
The six of the horses deemed to need an elevated level of care were taken to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at Blackburn correctional facility near Lexington.
Prior to Chuck Borell being taken into custody, local and state officials were trying to determine and contact owners of the horses before deciding when, and if, they would be relocated.
The farm, about 40 miles from Lexington, is for sale for $499,900.