06/30/2016 12:56PM

Trainer Maria Borell, father charged with animal cruelty

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Barbara D. Livingston
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of trainer Maria Borell on charges of animal cruelty.

Chuck Borell and his daughter, trainer Maria Borell, have been charged with animal cruelty in the case of 43 abandoned Thoroughbreds on a farm in Mercer County in central Kentucky.

Chuck Borell, who leased the farm and was the principal caregiver of the horses, was arrested by county sheriffs Wednesday when he showed up at the farm. There is an outstanding warrant for the arrest of Maria Borell, who trained Runhappy to win last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but the state does not know her whereabouts. She reportedly owns some of the horses that had been abandoned and had been entrusted with the care of other horses at the farm by their owners.

Chuck Borell is awaiting arraignment in the Boyle County Detention Center, which is about 30 miles southwest of Lexington, and the hearing was scheduled for July 5, according to the county attorney, Ted Dean. He is being held without bail.

The charges of animal cruelty were brought by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and they are a Class A misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is up to one year incarceration. Monetary damages could be levied at the discretion of the court.

As for Maria Borell, the state has not been able to serve her with the charges. Some reports have her out of the state in New York, and when asked if she could be extradited if found, Shane Mitchell, the lead investigator on the case for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture said, “In the vast majority of times, these are misdemeanor warrants, in cruelty to animals, second-degree misdemeanors, and in all likelihood, the extradition probably wouldn’t happen unless we found room and we could speak to the courts about getting something done.”

Maria Borell, who grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., was fired the day after the BC Sprint by Runhappy’s owner, Jim McIngvale, in a dispute, and there is still litigation in that case pending, with Borell claiming she is owed a percentage of the horse’s earnings and McIngvale maintaining that his contract with her paid her a monthly stipend and specifically did not include a trainer’s winning percentage of purses.

Efforts to reach Maria Borell have not been successful, and her cellphone number is now out of service.

As the criminal prosecution process moves forward, the vast majority of the horses will remain at the farm while ownership of the horses is being determined. The state is working with the Mercer County attorney’s office to sort through the issue of ownership, and Mitchell said, “Because of the scope of the case, it turns into a pretty big job trying to ascertain which horses belong to whom. We’re working with the county attorney’s office and showing Mr. Dean what evidence we have of ownership and letting Mr. Dean make the determination of ownership.

“One fear is someone claiming they own a horse and them not being the owner.”

Six of the horses deemed to be in the worst shape were moved off the farm Tuesday and sent to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s facility at Blackburn Correctional Complex near Lexington. The other 37 horses remain at the farm.

The horses were judged by the state as having been abandoned in May, and the state has been monitoring the situation since June 3, when officials first became aware of the problem. Chuck Borell had leased the property for only about a month before the horses were abandoned, according to Mitchell, having moved from another farm he had leased. Volunteers have been helping to take care of the horses since then, and crowd-funding on social media has raised more than $20,000 to help pay for their care.

Rusty Ford, spokesman for the office of the state veterinarian, said the 43 horses were examined Monday by a team of veterinarians, and they categorized the horses as follows: Three were severely underweight, 10 were underweight, 14 were of suitable weight, eight 8 were overweight, and eight were of proper weight. None is in a life-threatening situation.