Editor's Note: A previous version of this story included allegations in Crawford Farms' initial complaint related to observations from its veterinarian Dr. Jeremy Whitman that were refuted during a Sept. 8, 2022, deposition. The following story includes the testimony from that deposition.
A lawsuit involving a genetically defective horse that physically appeared to be a mare but was genetically male has been voluntarily dismissed, according to a March 12 court order.
Fayette Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Bunnell dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning the charges cannot be refiled, and the attorneys for plaintiff Michelle and Albert Crawford's Crawford Farms will file a motion this week to have this case also voluntarily dismissed in the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
Bunnell's order states the "parties have reached an Agreed Order for the voluntary dismissal of the case" and does not indicate any sort of settlement associated with the agreement.
The case filed in June 2021 centered on the horse Kept True, which Crawford Farms bought as a broodmare prospect during the 2021 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale for $150,000. Kept True, by Yes It's True, came into the sale as a New York-bred stakes winner of $323,659.
According to court documents, the Crawfords did not have the mare examined prior to removing her from Keeneland's sale grounds. The mare was later examined by the Crawfords' veterinarian, Dr. Jeremy Whitman, and a follow-up karyotype test done by Texas A&M University revealed a genetic condition that confirmed Kept True had the "appearance of a female horse, but the chromosomes of a male horse."
The Crawfords then contacted owner/breeder Jeff Treadway and consignor Hidden Brook Farm about rescinding the sale and wanted to be reimbursed for their costs for Kept True's care. These requests were both rebuffed and led to the lawsuit, which named Treadway, Hidden Brook, Keeneland, and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute as defendants.
Hagyard veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolfsdorf had signed a certificate required by Keeneland that identifies a broodmare as either pregnant or, if not pregnant, suitable for mating, according to American Association of Equine Practitioners standards. Condition 14 of the conditions of sale notes: Any filly or mare that is not pregnant at the time of the examination shall be characterized as suitable for mating if palpation per rectum of the ovaries, uterus, and cervix and speculum examination of the cervix and vagina does not reveal significant abnormalities that would indicate the mare or filly is not reproductively within reasonable limits. The definition does not reflect the examiner's opinion of the future ability or inability of a particular filly or mare to conceive and deliver a live foal.
While the initial complaint in this lawsuit alleged Whitman noted "deformed or non-existent ovaries" when he first palpated the mare, Whitman confirmed in a Sept. 8 deposition that the records of his first palpation of the mare Feb. 1, 2021, did not note any abnormalities.
"When you did a simple physical examination of the conformation of the mare, of Kept True, there was nothing about the examination of its conformation that led you to believe that it might have a genetic defect or abnormality," said Michael Casey, attorney for Wolfsdorf.
"No," answered Whitman. When Kept True was palpated again Feb. 22, 2021, after the mare had been under lights to induce her to cycle, Whitman then noted her ovaries were "Flat. They weren't spherical," according his deposition testimony. A genetic test was then conducted March 1.
Casey sent the following statement on Wolfsdorf's behalf in response the suit's dismissal: "Dr. Wolfsdorf is pleased the plaintiffs have come to the proper decision to dismiss the lawsuit. It is important to note that no settlement was paid. Dr. Wolfsdorf has always maintained she complied with the standard of care and met with the Keeneland conditions of sale. The case was dismissed because the plaintiff's own veterinarian, Dr. Jeremy Whitman, testified that Dr. Wolfsdorf's examination and findings were consistent with the standard of care and met the Keeneland conditions of sale. Dr. Wolfsdorf hopes that this unfortunate situation will prompt the review of the wording and implications of the conditions of sale so no other veterinarian will be scrutinized incorrectly."
Keeneland responded to the suit with a motion to dismiss based on a variety of provisions in its conditions of sale, one of which was that the Crawfords were contractually required to reject the sale within 24 hours after the end of the session in which the horse was sold. The motion was granted.
Hidden Brook filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted by Bunnell in an April 28 order stating, in essence that the Crawfords' claim against the consignor is barred because Keeneland's conditions of sale govern all auction transactions. Buyers are to conduct any pre-sale exams and are purchasing horse "as-is." If a horse is found to be not as certified, the only remedy is for the sale to be rejected, but only within the 24-hour window after a session. The Crawfords acknowledged in court records that they did not adhere to the conditions of sale but appealed Bunnell's order dismissing the charges against Hidden Brook.
The attorney for Treadway, the seller of Kept True, filed an answer to the complaint denying liability and he also filed a cross-claim against Wolfsdorf in the event any damages had been assessed against him. The cross-claim also is resolved by the March 12 dismissal.
Dick Downey contributed to this report.