No Qualified Bids For Sale Of Curlin

Nov. 6 (Bloomberg) -- A lawyer charged with selling off a minority stake in Curlin said there were no qualified bids for North America's richest racehorse because of the weakening economy.

The sale of a 20 percent share in the thoroughbred has been authorized by Boone County, Kentucky, Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden. The minority owners Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion already have a $42 million civil judgment against them and go on trial this month accused of cheating clients in a settlement over the diet drug fen-phen.

A Cincinnati law firm conducted a sealed-bid auction, though none of the bidders met all the sale criteria, which included price for the minority stake, ability to pay and the authority to bid. The process helped identify some potential buyers interested in a private sale.

``The sealed-bid process gave the receiver an opportunity to test the market without affecting the market,'' said Sylvius von Saucken, a partner in the Garretson Firm in Cincinnati who is charged with selling the minority share. ``We found the market loves Curlin, but it's a depressed market.''

Von Sauck declined to give an acceptable price for the minority interest. No decision has been made by majority owner Jess Jackson on whether Curlin will be retired to stud or race in 2009.

``We recognize the pressing need to try to be able to preserve and maximize Curlin's value,'' he said in a telephone interview. ``We didn't want to have a public auction because we couldn't protect the market perception of this champion stallion.''

Cigar, Barbaro

Cigar was worth an estimated $25 million when he was retired to stud, the same value put on Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, before he was euthanized in January 2007, seven months after he shattered his ankle in the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.

The 4-year-old Curlin, reigning Horse of the Year, has earned more than $10.5 million. He has won 11 of 16 starts, finished second twice and third two times. As the defending champion in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic, the colt came in fourth.

Cunningham and Gallion, the owners of Tandy LLC that operates Midnight Cry Stable, bought Curlin as a yearling for $57,000 at the Keeneland Association Inc. sales in September 2005. They also have 100 percent ownership of 39 horses, which may be sold to satisfy the judgment.

``A minority interest owned by people with legal problems is a hard sell,'' von Saucken said. ``Our biggest challenge is to free Curlin from these legal entanglements.''

He said that more than one bid was offered for the Steve Asmussen-trained colt.

`Little Surprising'

``The price was not the driving force,'' von Saucken said. ``The experts did find it a little surprising how depressed the market was.'' He declined to provide the amounts of any offers.

Jackson, owner of Stonestreet Stables and founder of Kendall-Jackson Winery, and two associates bought their 80 percent stake for about $3.5 million in February 2007 after the colt won his first start. Jackson then bought out his partners for an undisclosed sum.

Curlin set the record for earnings when he won the Jockey Club Gold Club on Sept. 27 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The $750,000 purse raised his total to more than $10.2 million, eclipsing the 12-year-old record of almost $10 million held by Cigar. The fourth-place purse in the Classic was $255,000.

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