More than 300 horses that the U.S. government says were purchased as part of a Mexican drug cartel’s money-laundering operation were put up for auction Thursday in Oklahoma City.
Some of the 340 quarter horses auctioned at the Heritage Place Fall Mixed Sale were bred from some of America’s top racehorses, and the government’s most prized horse — A Dash of Sweet Heat — sold for $1 million.
“Generally, on something that lives and breathes, we’re pretty cautious,” Lemoine said. “But the defendants agreed to this sale, which eliminates most of the risk for potential buyers.”
Federal prosecutors say 15 people charged in the case funneled millions of dollars in drug profits through quarter horse operations. Most of the horses that were seized came from a sprawling ranch in Lexington, Okla., that prosecutors say was run by Jose Trevino Morales, the brother of two alleged leaders of the Zeta drug cartel in Mexico.
Morales’ attorney and family maintain he’s innocent and being unfairly linked to his brothers, who were among those named in the federal indictment and are fugitives believed to be in Mexico.
The alleged ties between the horses and drug traffickers didn’t bother Bob and Sandy Brown of Des Moines, Iowa, who paid $50,000 for a 1-year old filly named Follies and Corona that they plan to race and then breed because of its top-quality blood lines.
“The breeding is the No. 1 criteria for us,” Bob Brown said. “We came down here to buy top quality brood mares.”
Matt Witman, a ranch manager at Lazy E Ranch in Guthrie, said the government-owned horses provided a huge boost to the horse show and attracted buyers from countries all over the world.
“The cartel had amassed one of the greatest collections of horses we’ve ever seen,” Witman said. “They’re as good as it gets.”
Although many of the horses had names like Big Daddy Cartel and Coronita Cartel, those names refer to the horse’s lineage as a descendant of noted sire Corona Cartel and not the alleged activities of its previous owners, said Debbie Schauf, the executive director of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association.
“That’s just a fluke coincidence,” Schauf said. “Any offspring of his has ‘cartel’ in the name because they want to show the blood line.”
Race industry blames provincial government policy ending slots at tracks for leaving it no choice
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An equine veterinarian near Windsor, Ont., says thousands of horses have been slaughtered for meat in the wake of Ontario’s decision to end the Slots at Racetracks Program.
Mark Biederman estimates 50 per cent of the province’s nearly 4,000 broodmares have been or will be slaughtered.
“Horses have been sent for meat, it’s that simple,” Biederman said. “Euthanization is expensive. Disposal is expensive. A lot of people don’t have that option, so they have been sent to slaughter.
“I’d say 50 per cent of the people I know that had broodmares have already had them euthanized or sent to meat, unfortunately.”
A local breeder also told CBC News several horses have been sent to slaughter this fall.
In Ontario, horses to be killed for meat are usually sent to the Ontario Livestock Exchange in Kitchener. Calls to the exchange were not immediately returned.
Biederman also said his business is down 60 per cent this race season. He laid off half his staff.
Windsor Raceway closed its doors Aug. 31, four months after the province announced the end of the slots program.
“If my wife wasn’t an Ontario native and loved Ontario, I might have been gone already because I don’t see with what’s left in Ontario that we’re going to be able to continue as we were,” Biederman said.
Ontario announced the end of the slots program March 31. Money earned from slots at tracks was split between the horse industry, track owners and the province. It generated $345 million for the horse industry each year.
Biederman said the cancellation of the program “makes no sense.”
“Everyone was benefiting. The horse industry was getting $300 million and the province was getting $1.2 billion [each year],” he said. “Ontario is no longer a desirable place to race or breed horses.”
Biederman said some breeders and racers have taken their business to American states where gambling at racetracks is legal. Ohio, for example, just approved gambling at racetracks this year.
“All these states were envious of Ontario and said, ‘We would love to push for slots at racetracks and alt gambling to augment purses just like Ontario does.’ All those states’ purses have risen and Ontario’s will drop,” Biederman said. “You go where you can make the most money, but that is no longer Ontario. People will relocate where they can make money. It’s just like job hunting.”
“There’s absolutely no shot of us being able to continue. It won’t work,” said second-generation horse breeder Mark Williams. “I can’t morally see how there’s an advantage to putting one citizen out of work, never mind tens of thousands.
“Not to mention what’s going to happen to all our horses.”
The Ontario Harness Horse Association told CBC News the report marks the death of the industry.
“Rather than killing the industry off completely in one fell swoop, they’ve crippled it, which will ultimately lead to its death,” said Brian Tropea of the OHHA. “It’s just going to be a slower death.”
Adding to the difficulty in finding horses a new home is the fact feed and hay costs have skyrocketed because of an Ontario drought this summer.
Tropea said there is no choice but to “reduce the herd.”
IN THE HANDS OF KILL BUYERS! When horses are purchased at auction by buyers intending to kill them, they're hauled away in double- decker tractor trailers where they are beaten and often blinded with baseball bats to mollify them. After crossing the border into Mexico, the animals are stabbed on each side-an act to tenderize their meat-and immobilized. Workers, then saw the horses legs off, at the knee and hang them to bleed out-all while the horses are ALIVE! (This is an excerpt, from an article written by Missy Diaz, crediting Victoria Mc Cullough and Sen. Joe Abruzzo for bringing awareness of horse slaughter, to Florida. In 2010 Florida Legislation unanimously passed the Horse Protection Bill, making it a felony to slaughter horses for personal or commercial use.)