Judge rejects sale of Curlin

Ownership of reigning Horse of the Year Curlin remained divided Monday after a judge’s surprise ruling rejected a proposed sale that would have consolidated control of the horse under winemaker Jess Jackson.

Curlin Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables owns 80 per cent of the richest North American racehorse in history and had offered $US4 million to buy out the remaining 20 per cent interest from William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jnr.

The two disbarred attorneys are under a court order to pay $US42 million to former clients they represented in a settlement over the diet drug fen-phen.

Although a court-appointed receiver recommended the transaction be approved, an attorney for Gallion and Cunningham argued $US4 million was too low a price for a share of such a promising stallion prospect.

Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden agreed to disallow it after hearing the same plea from Angela Ford, who represents the fen-phen clients in their civil case against Gallion and Cunningham.

"The plaintiffs have objected to the process and the defendants have objected to the process, so I am ending the process," Crittenden said.

That means Curlin’s ownership likely will remain split when he stands as a stallion next year at Lane’s End Farm, collecting a $US75,000 stud fee.

Jackson announced last week that he had picked the Versailles, Kentucky, farm owned by Will Farish, a former US ambassador to Britain, as the horse’s new home.

Although Crittenden said there was no further need for the court to be involved in the dispute, he said he believed the horse’s $US20 million appraised price was fair.

Andre Regard, a lawyer for Cunningham and Gallion, said another expert was prepared to testify that the horse was worth nearly twice as much.

Regard said he was satisfied with the judge’s ruling, but Jackson’s lawyer, Richard Getty, said he had made a mistake.

"If they are not smart enough to figure out this is a very, very good deal given this market condition and this deal and what we’re faced with, I feel sorry for them in a way," Getty said.

Curlin won 11 of 16 career starts and was placed a further four times.

The only time he finished out of a place was his fourth last month in the $US5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, which he was attempting to win for the second straight year.

Curlin’s career included wins in the Preakness Stakes, Jockey Club Classic, Stephen Foster Handicap and Dubai World Cup.

His winnings of $US10.5 million passed Cigar to make him North America’s richest racehorse in history.

By Jeffrey McMurray