07/03/2013 4:32PM

Animal neglect investigation opened at portion of Hopewell Farm

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Woodford County Animal Control and Kentucky Department of Agriculture officials have opened an animal neglect investigation at a portion of Hopewell Farm that brothers Duane and Wayne Murty have leased.

Hopewell Farm, a 587-acre property near Versailles, Ky., currently is in receivership and has been on the market for $14,675,000 through Justice Real Estate; more recently, the Woodford Circuit Court ordered it sold at absolute auction on July 16 through Swinebroad-Denton as part of PNC Bank’s bankruptcy case against Hopewell.

Lexington television news station WLEX-TV first reported the animal neglect investigation, saying 24 horses were located on the 43-acre tract that the Murtys leased and that two of those horses had been euthanized. Reporter Leigh Searcy said investigators found the horses “living in deplorable conditions” in the 24-stall barn and “shut in stalls filled with feces.”

Searcy reported that the Murtys, who declined comment, were in the process of relocating the horses Tuesday.

Woodford County Animal Control officials and state veterinarian Dr. Robert Stout did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Nor did Tim Cone, the Hopewell farm receiver.

Woodford County attorney Alan George declined to comment because the investigation is ongoing but noted that his office considers the investigation “a very serious matter.”

Under Rick Trontz’s ownership, Hopewell developed into a well known commercial breeding and sales operation and once stood such horses as three-time champion and 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away, 2002 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Volponi, and three-time Grade 1 winner Royal Anthem.

Trontz said Wednesday that he leased the 43-acre tract, which is separated from the main Hopewell property by a creek, to the Murtys in April or May, shortly before Hopewell went into receivership. Under the agreement, Trontz said, the Murtys were to handle all care of their horses as well as property maintenance, such as mowing. Trontz had no horses on the property.