Fayette County

Share of Curlin to be auctioned by Keeneland

A 20 percent share of Curlin, the reigning Horse of the Year, likely Breeders' Cup Classic favorite and richest Thoroughbred racehorse ever, is being auctioned by sealed bid by Keeneland.

The written bids must be received by 3 p.m. Nov. 5, according to a press release from Keeneland. Keeneland will market the share in the stallion but the bids will go to a court-appointed receiver.

"This is a rare opportunity to acquire a significant interest in an extraordinary racehorse and an exciting stallion prospect," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland director of sales. "Curlin is arguably one of the greatest horses of the modern era."

In his two-year racing career, Curlin has won 11 out of 15 races, earning a world record $10,246,800, a total he could add to with a win in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic championship next week in California. A win would make him only the second horse to twice win the Classic, and even more valuable as a stallion prospect. His sire, Smart Strike, stands at Lane's End Farm in Versailles for $150,000.

Russell would not comment on what the minority share of Curlin might be worth. "I think I'll leave that to the stallion managers," he said. "He's the most exciting horse going to stud in many a year. ... He'll be one of the most sought after."

Russell said they will be marketing to a "very targeted" group. He said that to his understanding there is no set reserve on the bidding but the court could reject any or all bids if they aren't high enough. The share is being auctioned to help satisfy a $42 million court judgment against two of his owners, attorneys Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion.

They, along with attorney Melbourne Mills Jr., were found in a civil trial to have defrauded more than 400 clients they represented against the makers of diet drugs fen-phen. The attorneys were found to have taken excessive fees from that $200 million settlement.

However, Andre Regard, an attorney for the minority share owners told The Blood-Horse that he has filed a motion to block the sale, which he said is premature.

A federal jury earlier this year acquitted Mills of fraud but could not reach a verdict on Cunningham and Gallion, who will be retried Nov. 17.

Cunningham and Gallion, through Midnight Cry Stables, bought the horse in 2005 for $57,000. In February 2007 they sold 80 percent to a group led by winemaker and Thoroughbred breeder Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables. Jackson later bought out his partners.

On Sept. 25, Boone County Circuit Court Judge Roger Crittenden ordered the 20 percent interest to be auctioned by receiver Matthew L. Garretson.

Garretson approached Keeneland, and the auction house was approved by the court to market the auction.

Garretson is under orders to maximize the value of the horse. The winner of the bidding will get clear title to the 20 percent interest.

A Jackson spokesman has previously said he is considering bidding on the share. Jackson has a right of first refusal, so he could match any bid the court accepts and get the last 20 percent of the horse.

"In order to assure a fair and transparent bidding and sale process, we can not comment about either the status or future prospects for Curlin beyond the previous announcement that Curlin is currently slated to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic. We hope all prospective bidders understand that we don't feel it is appropriate to discuss prospective plans for Curlin at this juncture," said Kevin McGee, an attorney for Jackson, in a statement released Wednesday evening.

Jackson said on Tuesday that he has not decided on the horse's future beyond the Breeders' Cup and that he has not had serious negotiations on where to stand Curlin at stud.