The final legal hurdle that will allow 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri to race again this year was cleared when a California judge set into motion a settlement reached in February in the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust case.
The settlement of the petition brought by Madeleine Paulson, widow of the deceased multi-millionaire, against trustee Michael Paulson, her stepson, comes more than 2 1/2 years after Paulson's death.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Richard Cline approved the agreement on March 14 and brought to a close the acrimonious dispute over the trust's racing operation of about 60 horses, as well as other property issues.
Under the agreement, Michael Paulson was named the sole trustee and will continue to race the Paulson Trust horses, including Azeri, along with his two brothers, Richard and Jim.
Madeleine Paulson had sought Michael Paulson's removal as trustee over his failure, she contended, to sell off the trust's horses in accordance with Allen Paulson's will.
It appeared the sale of Azeri and the remaining stock was going to take place in March at the Barretts Equine sale of select 2-year-olds following a December court ruling. But the order was rescinded in February pending approval of the settlement.
As part of the settlement, Madeleine Paulson will receive the Del Mar Country Club, her residence in San Diego County, and another oceanfront property in Del Mar. She said she is satisfied with the conditions of the settlement, but disappointed it took so long.
"Here we are 32 months later (since Paulson's death), and we've finally got a settlement," Madeleine Paulson said. "I'm relieved to have finally gotten it behind me and satisfied that my husband's wishes have been followed."
Michael Paulson had earlier said he was pleased to become the sole trustee of the estate and planned to race for the foreseeable future.
"I'm not going to look back," he said of the stormy relationship with his stepmother. "It's part of my father's legacy to look forward, and that's what I'll do."
Azeri, who won seven consecutive stakes races last year concluding with a five-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, became the first female Horse of the Year since Lady's Secret in 1986. The 5-year-old daughter of Jade Hunter is preparing for her 2003 debut April 5 in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.
Other trust-owned horses include a pair of unraced 3-year-old colts: Manchurian, a son of Deputy Minister out of the Paulson's champion mare Ajina, and Stratostar, by Pulpit out of Campagnarde. The trust will continue to own and manage its successful breeding operation, including the stallions Theatrical and Jade Hunter.
Madeleine Paulson said she would continue to have her own racing and breeding operation.