There is nothing illegal about it, but I was stunned to learn that one of the most prominent families in Texas horseracing may have been responsible for dumping 10 broodmares – including a daughter of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, one by leading sire Storm Cat, and a third that is a full sister to leading Texas stallion Valid Expectations – at the Round Mountain livestock auction 50 miles west of Austin, Texas, on Saturday. The Round Mountain sale is frequented by kill-buyers who ship the horses south of the border to be slaughtered for human consumption in Mexico.
The 10 mares were said by a witness to have been transported to the sale on vehicles belonging to Keith Asmussen's Asmussen Horse Center of Laredo, Texas. Keith is a former Quarter horse jockey, and father of retired rider Cash Asmussen, an Eclipse Award-winning apprentice and champion jockey in France, as well as Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen.
Many of the mares only months earlier delivered 2012 foals and were bred back during the 2012 breeding season to Asmussen Horse Center stallions, according to reports from The Jockey Club.
Phone messages left at the Asmussen Horse Center on Monday and Tuesday were not returned.
Nine of the horses were rescued from likely slaughter by John R. Murrell, a Dallas businessman and Thoroughbred racehorse owner who previously served on the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Murrell was alerted of the horses' plight by Deborah Jones, a Southern Californian with a network of volunteers and sources throughout the United States who keep tabs on horses arriving at auctions frequented by kill buyers.
Murrell authorized Jones to purchase the horses on his behalf, and Jones told the Paulick Report she outbid kill buyers for seven of the mares, then bought two others privately for $100 more than the kill buyers bid. The 10th mare was believed to be in safe hands after being purchased by an individual not affiliated with the slaughter industry. Murrell paid $4,480 for the nine horses.
The rescued horses are now under the care of Donna Keen's Remember Me Rescue, a 501(c)3 charity. Some of the former owners or breeders of the mares have stepped up with financial support to help provide for them.
The 10 mares are:
—20-year-old Valid Obsession, a full sister to sires Valid Expectations and Littleexpectations. She is reported to have a 2012 foal by Intimidator and was bred back to Asmussen Horse Center stallion Intimidator.
—17-year-old Luxury of Time, a daughter of Seattle Slew bred by Eclipse Award-winning Golden Eagle Stable. She was bred in 2012 to Intimidator.
—15-year-old Adios La Cucaracha, a daughter of Storm Cat with a 2012 foal by Intimidator and bred back to Intimidator.
—7-year-old Rhododendron, a daughter of Mutakddim bred by multiple Eclipse Award-winning breeder Nelson Bunker Hunt. She has 2012 foal by Seneca and was bred to Intimidator.
—12-year-old Our Revival, a daughter of Ide with a 2012 foal by Heckle and bred to Asmussen Horse Center stallion Primal Storm.
—20-year-old Endless Storm, a daughter of Storm Bird with a 2012 foal by Intimidator and bred to Intimidator.
—13-year-old Ethel Is Best, a daughter of Woodman bred in 2012 to Intimidator.
—14-year-old Karitsas Punch, a daughter of Two Punch bred to Asmussen Horse Center stallion Littleexpectations.
—15-year-old Fans Galore, a daughter of Lear Fan bred to Primal Storm.
—8-year-old Empress Jones, a daughter of Seneca Jones with a 2012 foal by Heckle and bred to Intimidator.
The Asmussens purchased most of the mares at breeding stock sales in Kentucky and Texas for prices ranging from $60,000 for Endless Storm to $2,500 for Karitsas Punch.
It was a busy week for Murrell. Three days after rescuing the Asmussen horses at the Round Mountain auction, he was at the state capitol in Austin testifying before a Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee meeting considering a recommendation to reverse the Texas ban on horse slaughter.
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