Thoroughbred trainer Maria Borell, who was fired after Runhappy won the Breeders' Cup Sprint, has filed suit alleging breach of contract and defamation by the colt's owners.
The lawsuit says Borell, 32, of Winchester, seeks $122,752, including her share of winnings from the Breeders' Cup race, plus "certain lifetime breeding rights, none of which have been remitted by Gallery Racing," the Houston-based stable owned by Jim and Linda McIngvale.
The suit, filed Monday in Fayette Circuit Court, alleges that Borell had "an oral agreement" in which she would train horses owned by Gallery Racing in exchange for $1,000 a week, 10 percent of Gallery's share of purses won by horses trained by her, 10 percent of the amount subsequently won in claiming races, and one lifetime breeding right for each Grade 1 stakes win by a horse trained by Borell.
Borell's lawyer, Richard Getty of Lexington, said it is "pretty common, from what I understand," for a trainer to receive breeding rights.
"I know of at least one other trainer that trained for McIngvale under similar circumstances and who did get 10 percent commissions on stakes races," Getty said. "They (Gallery) take the position ... she's not entitled to anything. I don't think that's the case."
Monica Orlando, the Houston attorney for Gallery Racing, did not return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.
Keeneland and the Breeders' Cup are also named in the suit because they are holding the money payable to Gallery Racing, at least a portion of which Borell says is owed to her. Gallery Racing's share of the purse winnings for Runhappy's Breeders' Cup win was $820,000, the suit says.
Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael Jr. is scheduled to have a hearing Friday to decide whether that money should be held by the court until a final judgment. Borell's lawsuit says Keeneland and/or the Breeders' Cup should remit some or all of that money to the court until a determination is made as to what should be paid to Borell.
"All that's going to come up is what does Keeneland do with respect to the money," Getty said. "Do they pay it to McIngvale? ... Keeneland is simply stuck in the middle. They hold the money for the Breeders' Cup and they disburse on behalf of Breeders' Cup to the owner unless directed otherwise."
The defamation claims are made because, after her firing, "Borell was subjected to numerous false, libelous, defamatory and damaging statements" made by the McIngvales and published in The Paulick Report, which covers news related to horse racing and the Thoroughbred industry, the suit alleges.
The suit says those statements cast "unfounded and untrue aspersion" on Borell's status and competency as a trainer.
Getty said he hopes that an out-of-court settlement can be reached.
"I wrote McIngvale a letter and outlined by each race what we thought she's owed," Getty said.
Borell was fired the day after the Breeders' Cup, when she and McIngvale's racing manager, Laura Wohlers, disagreed on whether Runhappy should exercise on the track at the Thoroughbred Center on Paris Pike. Borell objected, and she was then let go as trainer.
"Just went from the best day of my life to the worst day of my life," Borell posted on Twitter. "My heart is in a million pieces."