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Crundwell horses bring millions

DIXON – Good I Will Be, aka Willy, definitely was the star of the show Sunday: The auction crowd was abuzz even before he stepped into the small ring.

“Willy really is a cool horse,” one auction-goer said.

It wasn’t long before they found out his true worth: After several minutes of intense bidding, the crowd erupted into cheers as the three-time world champion performance halter stallion sold for $775,000 to a Canadian woman.

That exceeded their expectations, said Tim Jennings, co-owner of Professional Auction Services Inc.

“It was just about the upper end of our range,” he said. “We thought it would be closer to $500,000 from a realistic standpoint, but figured if he did great, he would go for $750,000.”

Multiple doses of his semen brought $43,500 more.

Good I Will Be was among the 134 quarter horses belonging to former comptroller Rita Crundwell that sold Sunday at her Red Brick Road Ranch.

The horses and several batches of frozen semen from her prize breeding program brought more than $2.4 million. Tack sold before the auction netted nearly $100,000.

Only one horse didn’t sell, and auctioneers said Sunday that they have been approached by people interested in adopting those who don’t.

“It was as good as it possibly could be,” Jennings said after bidding ended around 6:30 p.m. He estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 people packed the ranch Sunday, twice what marshals expected.

The auction resumed Monday, when more tack, along with trucks, trailers, tractors, a breeding lab, and the rest of the performance and halter horses were sold.

Crundwell’s herd of prized quarter horses has been in the care of the U.S. Marshals Service since shortly after federal prosecutors indicted the 59-year-old on a single count of wire fraud.

Prosecutors say she misappropriated more than $53 million in city funds since 1990 to pay for her horse-breeding and -showing operations and the lavish lifestyle that accompanied her hobby.

She also is charged in Lee County with 60 counts of theft from Jan. 1, 2010, to April 17 totaling about $11.3 million. The state charges accuse her of transferring city money into a secret bank account; each count translates into a theft of more than $100,000 of government property, a felony punishable by 6 to 30 years in prison.

The proceeds of the sale of the horses and other assets, minus costs, will be given to the city if she is convicted in federal court.

Eighty of Crundwell’s 401 horses sold online for more than $1.6 million earlier this month.

In the first few hours after the horse sale began, around 11 a.m. Sunday, more than a thousand people huddled inside and around a big white tent to bid on their favorites or to watch the day unfold. Many followed along, scribbling the winning bids in the glossy sales catalog.

Willy was one of the first to be sold. Among the other big sellers were champion mares Ms. Mae Flash, which sold for $112,000; Money’s Moxie, which went for $87,000; and Mystic Invitation, which brought $80,000.

Jennings expected Moxie to fetch more.

“I thought that she might bring in $100,000,” he said. “Everybody knew she was here to sell, and that’s what the market said she was worth.”

One horse, Cathys Marecedes, was sold twice. It was discovered that the first winning bidder was one of the contractors, who was prohibited from bidding on the horses.

Mayor Jim Burke was on hand to see Good I Will Be sold.

“I was glad to see what that horse went for, Willy,” he said. “I was told earlier that it would probably go for anywhere from $500,000 to a million dollars, so it was really gratifying to see that horse go for what it did.”

The sale continued until Monday until after press time.

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