At the same time attorneys for ClassicStar filed a motion to dismiss most of the counts in a lawsuit brought against it by four breeding groups, a managing partner of the one-time broodmare lease operator says he is not only looking forward to the company's dispersal of mares at the Nov. 5 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select mixed sale, but to its future as a commercial breeder as well.
Tony Ferguson told The Blood-Horse
Oct. 31 that the mares and accompanying in-utero foals cataloged in the dispersal will be sold free of any encumbrances to the lawsuit, which levels charges that include criminal racketeering and civil fraud against ClassicStar, former marketing director David Plummer, and other alleged affiliates.
"ClassicStar is looking forward to the sale on Sunday night, reducing our inventory, and resolving all issues involved with the lawsuit," said Ferguson in a telephone interview from Tampa, where he helps runs a variety of enterprises, including another named defendant in the legal action, the gas and oil exploration company GeoStar Corp.
While projecting a few withdrawals from the original dispersal catalog of 73 lots, Ferguson said the mares scheduled to pass through the sale ring at Fasig-Tipton are not connected to any lease for 2006. He added that ClassicStar has eliminated the heavily-scrutinized lease program from its future offerings in the Thoroughbred industry, but will continue to operate as a commercial breeder.
Ferguson said there are just a handful of lease programs that produced matings for this year, and those leased mares are among the band of about 50 currently housed at ClassicStar Farm near Versailles, Ky. The farm was the location of a Feb. 23 raid by Internal Revenue Service agents, where financial data and related documents were seized just weeks after Plummer left ClassicStar under the terms of a separation agreement.
Many of the mares currently under the ClassicStar umbrella are of high-profile nature, purchased as part of a Plummer-led $45 million buying spree at public auction from 2001-2004. Among those offered in the dispersal at Fasig-Tipton are grade I winner Hookedonthefeelin (in foal to Distorted Humor
), the dam of 2006 Humana Distaff Handicap (gr. I) winner Pussycat Doll; Turko's Turn (in foal to Storm Cat
), the 2001 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year and dam of 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given; and Ballado's Halo (in foal to Elusive Quality
), a stakes-placed full sister to champion Ashado.
Turko's Turn earlier this year produced a Gone West
colt. The listed breeders of the weanling are Walter and Deb Remmers, who are among the lawsuit's plaintiffs that claim they were frauded out of millions of dollars by investing in ClassicStar programs.
The Gone West colt is believed to be among a dozen or so weanlings collectively owned by the plaintiffs that were recently removed from ClassicStar Farm, and shipped to a prominent Kentucky farm.
Ferguson declined to talk about the lawsuit and the dismissal motion filed in a Lexington federal court Oct. 30. The motion asks for 8 of the 10 counts cited in the original complaint to be immediately dismissed, including all racketeering charges, and those that name Ferguson, GeoStar and ClassicStar Farms, citing failure by the plaintiffs to accurately plead those claims.
"ClassicStar Farms, like GeoStar, is included as a defendant solely for the purpose of providing plaintiffs with another pocket to attempt to reach," said the document authored by Lexington attorney Brian M. Johnson.
The motion also claims Ferguson never met or spoke with any of the plaintiffs until "well after" they had invested in the mare lease program, purportedly with Plummer.
Ferguson affirmed that ClassicStar has distanced itself from Plummer, who is represented by separate counsel in the lawsuit. It is believed that ClassicStar was formed out of business rights and property sold by Plummer to GeoStar in 2001.
"We have made a clear separation from Plummer," Ferguson told The Blood-Horse
. "We entered a separation agreement signed on Feb. 1, and all communication since then has ceased."
Also on Oct. 30, attorneys for Plummer separately filed an answer to the complaint originally filed by the plaintiffs in July. In it, he counter-claims that the plaintiffs knew full well that they were purchasing lease interests in both Thoroughbreds and performance horses, citing at one point that Deb Remmers allegedly visited Plummer's Utah-based Buffalo Ranch in August 2004, and inspected many of the mares that were included in the lease package she later signed.
Barry Hunter, a Lexington attorney who is part of the legal team representing the plaintiffs, told The Blood-Horse
he would prefer to let court filings speak his clients side of the case against all of the defendants.
Hunter did acknowledge that the plaintiffs had received a letter of invitation to inspect some of the foals allegedly produced by Quarter Horse mares per lease agreements at Plummer-owned farms in Texas and Utah, but said a decision to act on the request hadn't been made.
Plummer was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Joe Hood during an Oct. 3 hearing in Lexington to provide information about the Quarter Horse foals after Hunter complained the plaintiffs didn't know where the horses were located. One of Plummer's attorneys, Seattle-based lawyer Christiana L. Haring, declined to comment on the existence of the invitation letter.
Taylor Made Sales Agency is handling the ClassicStar consignment.