State

Trainer’s father pleads not guilty in Mercer County horse cruelty case

One of the horses found at a farm on Martin Lane in Mercer County. A horse trainer, Maria Borell, and her father Charles “Chuck” Borell have been charged after 43 horses, mostly Thoroughbreds, were abandoned on a Mercer County farm.
One of the horses found at a farm on Martin Lane in Mercer County. A horse trainer, Maria Borell, and her father Charles “Chuck” Borell have been charged after 43 horses, mostly Thoroughbreds, were abandoned on a Mercer County farm.

A lawyer for Charles “Chuck” Borell, father of horse trainer Maria Borell, entered a not guilty plea Monday to 43 counts of second-degree animal cruelty in Mercer District Court.

Borell, 69, wasn’t in court, and his attorney, Larry Catlett of Harrodsburg, would not answer questions after the arraignment. Chuck Borell was charged in late June after the 43 horses were found to be abandoned and in poor health on a Mercer County farm. Three horses were emaciated, state officials said.

A warrant also has been issued for Maria Borell on charges of 43 counts of second-degree animal cruelty. The warrant apparently has not been served because she is out of state. In 2015, she was the trainer of Runhappy, the winner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland.

Meanwhile, the condition of the horses continues to improve.

Eight animals are in the care of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation horse farm at Blackburn Correctional Center in Fayette County. Six were initially taken there but two more were added later. The horses are in the care of prison inmates through a vocational training program.

“They’re bringing them along carefully,” said Diana Pikulski, director of external affairs for the foundation. “They’re making steady progress. You have to be really careful in how quickly you can bring along the horses that were really starved. You could kill them if you try to bring them back too fast.”

Among the horses at Blackburn are Z Camelot, who was once an entry in the Florida Derby. Pikulski said he was “in particularly bad shape.”

“But his spirit is good and his energy is good and he’s coming along,” Pikulski said.

An additional 28 horses remain at a farm in Mercer County.

“They’re gaining weight slowly but steadily. They’re all being treated,” said Angie Cheak, director of farm services.

Seven non-Thoroughbred horses went to the Kentucky Horse Park.

A GoFundMe site that had a goal of raising $20,000 to take care of the horses had raised $24,682 by Monday morning. Food for the horses and other donations have been given directly to volunteers.

Charles Borell remains free on $4,300 bond. As a condition of his bond, he is not to have a caretaking role for any domestic animals, especially horses, according to court records.

Mercer District Judge Jeff Dotson scheduled a pretrial conference for Sept. 8

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