An application for an owner’s license for reigning Horse of the Year Curlin has been received by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, board spokesman Dan Toomey said July 8.
“We have received licensing ownership representation (for Curlin), and our legal counsel is fully reviewing the application,” Toomey said. “I can’t tell you at this point when a decision will be made.”
Toomey declined to identify the name of the person(s) that applied for the license. A source close to the situation believes the licensing issue will be favorably resolved, possibly as soon as July 8.
Curlin’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, said July 8 he will run the 4-year-old in the Man o’ War Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park July 12. The Man o’ War would be Curlin’s first race on the turf as he tests the waters for a potential trip to France to run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I)) at Longchamp Oct. 5.
Curlin’s majority owner is Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables. Jackson is licensed in New York, but Curlin’s minority owners, Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion of Midnight Cry Stable, who hold a 20% interest, are not. Cunningham and Gallion, both attorneys, are currently jailed in Kentucky for allegedly defrauding clients, and are awaiting a second trial after the first trial was declared a mistrial.
Prosecutors in the case said Cunningham and Gallion defrauded their clients of millions of dollars from a $200-million settlement reached in 2002 with the manufacturer of the diet-drug fen-phen. In 2007, a civil court decided that the lawyers had defrauded their clients.
Earlier in June, the judge that presided over the civil court trial, Roger Crittenden, ordered that all of Midnight Cry's earnings be handled by a court-appointed receiver. Midnight Cry's ownership in Curlin was leased to Cunningham's wife, Patricia, to allow the entity to be licensed in Kentucky, when Curlin ran in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I).
It is unlikely given Cunningham and Gallion’s circumstances that they would be issued a license in New York, but a way around that is if a lessee of Midnight Cry is granted a license. Under current New York rules, both an owner and a lessee must be licensed.
In June, Midnight Cry's legal woes prevented grade I winner Einstein, a horse it owns, to race in New York in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT). Cunningham withdrew his license application in the days leading up to the June 7 Manhattan.
If Curlin, last year’s winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) were to run in the Man o’ War, he would face two other Breeders’ Cup winners: Better Talk Now and European invader Red Rocks, winners of the 2004 and 2006 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), respectively. Entries will taken July 10.
This year, Curlin, by Smart Strike, is undefeated in three starts. He won a prep race in Dubai before capturing the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), and won the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs June 14.