One of the most active buyers at last year's Keeneland November breeding stock auction, Bernice L. Givens Sykes, signed sale tickets for 59 horses, which were worth $267,700. But, according to Harvie Wilkinson, Keeneland's director of finance, Sykes hasn't paid for those purchases, the money is past due, and the Central Kentucky auction firm is exploring legal action.
"We've asked our legal counsel to review all our options for us," said Wilkinson. "She (Givens) hasn't returned our calls."
Sykes also signed tickets for 75 horses, which sold for $431,100, at the 2000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale in Maryland. Boyd Browning, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Fasig-Tipton, declined to comment on Sykes' financial standing with his firm.
Nearly all of the horses purchased by Sykes at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton Midlantic were sent to Winning Ways Farm near Paris, Ky. According to Winning Ways' owner, Mary Anne Parris, Sykes had not paid her board bills for 122 head as of Jan. 7.
"Two of her checks bounced," said Parris, who has consulted an attorney.
Sale company officials and Parris said they believe Sykes lives in Maryland, but offered little other information about her. Wilkinson called Sykes a "mystery woman."
"I've heard a jillion stories about her, but I won't repeat them because apparently none of them are true," Parris said.
The Blood-Horse attempted to contact Sykes but was not successful.