The great Great Hunter dispute has finally reached the finish line.
California owner J. Paul Reddam, who purchased the son of Aptitude privately for $550,000 last June from Ilona Whetstone, said he reached an “amicable settlement” with Fifth Third Bank over ownership of the colt 45 minutes before the start of the April 14 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland. Great Hunter finished a troubled fifth in the race, but remains on course to run in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 5.
Terms of the agreement between Reddam and Fifth Third Bank were not disclosed because of a confidentiality agreement, according to Reddam’s attorney, Dan Baren. Debra DeCourcy, director of corporate communications at Fifth Third Bank, issued this statement April 16: “The parties have settled the case amicably and the bank no longer asserts any interest in Great Hunter.”
Fifth Third Bank had claimed that Great Hunter was included in collateral used by Whetstone on since-defaulted loans extended by the bank to her and her husband, L. Eric Whetstone. L. Eric Whetstone has five felony convictions on his record, and has served four prison sentences to date. The bank filed suit against Ilona Whetstone over an alleged default of $3 million in loans secured in 2005. The civil lawsuit alleges several horses and other Thoroughbred interests owned by Whestone were part of the collateral for the loans. Reddam then received a letter from the bank informing him a lien existed on the colt.
Reddam countered that he took title to the horse free and clear of any lien.
The dispute deepened late in March when the bank threatened to sell its claim on the horse to a third party. An Orange County, Calif., Superior Court judge issued an order to the bank March 29 not to interfere with ownership of the horse. After the bank sent a letter to Keeneland days before the Blue Grass asking it not to distribute any potential purse money earned in the race by Great Hunter to Reddam, Baren was back in court seeking a contempt order against the bank for violating the March 29 order. That matter was to have been heard May 10, but is no longer necessary.
Great Hunter won the Lane’s End Futurity (gr. I) last year and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) earlier this spring.
By Lenny Shulman and Ryan Conley