Maria Borell pictured with Runhappy’s jockey Edgar Prado
By Nicholas Godfrey 8:00AM 30 JUN 2016
USA: Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer Maria Borell and her father Chuck have been charged with 43 counts of second-degree cruelty to animals after being arrested in connection with the high-profile case of equine neglect involving abandoned horses on a farm in Kentucky.
In a sensational development to what has become a notorious case, county sheriffs arrested Chuck Borell, who was taken into custody on Wednesday morning when he arrived at the farm in Mercer County, about 35 miles southwest of ‘horse capital’ Lexington in central Kentucky.
According to several US reports, a warrant also remains outstanding for the arrest of Maria Borell, who reportedly owns some of the horses or had been charged with their care by their owners. The charges against the Borells, which are violations of state law, have been brought by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
Chuck Borell leased the farm, the subject of an investigation by state and local officials, who stepped in on grounds of equine welfare after reports of emaciated and abandoned horses. The six worst cases have been moved to a Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation facility, with the remaining 37 still at the farm.
According to the Blood-Horse, officials determined that Borell was responsible for the horses, hence his arrest for the alleged offences, which carry a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment.
Shane Mitchell, the agriculture department investigator handling the case, told the Blood-Horse said there was sufficient evidence to charge Maria Borell in addition to her father. Investigators are trying to determine her location so she can be taken into custody.
Claim and counterclaim
Maria Borell earned fame at last year’s Breeders’ Cup when the little-known trainer cliamed only the sixth winner of her career when she saddled Runhappy to a hugely popular success in the Sprint.
She became known as the ‘Girl with the Horse Tattoo’ owing to the huge portrait of Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence emblazoned between her shoulder blades – but a fairytale success was soon to curdle when owner Jim ‘Mattress Mac’ McIngvale, the furniture magnate, removed the horse from Borell the day after the race, prompting a barrage of claim and counter-claim, innuendo, allegation and speculation.
Borell’s subsequent lawsuit is yet to be settled; Runhappy, who is now sidelined with a foot injury, ran just once for new trainer Laura Wohlers, McIngvale’s sister-in-law, winning the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in December.
Last month, allegations of neglect at the farm leased by Chuck Borell surfaced in an extensive report on the USRacing.com website.
“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.