In an April 25 order, Broward County (Fla.) circuit court judge Patti Englander Henning has granted the defense's motion in the case regarding the ownership of Val's Prince and has ordered a new trial.
On Nov. 28 2000, Henning, basing her opinion upon a Jockey Club foal certificate that was placed into evidence, had found for plaintiff Robin Martin in her suit to be considered the sole owner of the 9-year-old gelding. However, during a hearing on Feb. 2, 2001, defendant Steve Weiner produced a more current foal certificate that showed him to be a 50% owner of Val's Prince since March 1997.
"Upon careful refection and review, this Court finds that the only method to decide the disputed issues of facts is to retry at the very least, the issues concerning the Jockey Club Certificate or at the most to retry the entire case," Henning wrote. She added that since she holds disbelief of both of the parties to the action and most of the witnesses, a new trial should be held before a different judge.
"The evidentiary problems were created solely by Weiner," stated Martin's attorney Brad Beilly, who has filed an appeal of Henning's order for a new trial with the Fourth District Court Of Appeals in West Palm Beach, "Although we disagree with the order for a new trial, we agree that, if held, it should be before a new judge."
But Weiner, who has indicated he may act as his own attorney in a retrial, is confident that he will prevail. "This whole thing has been a travesty of justice since the very beginning," he said.
The central issue is whether Martin, who acquired the horse from Weiner in 1995, signed an agreement returning 50% ownership of Val's Prince to Weiner in 1997 under duress or of her own accord. Martin's suit alleges that the agreement was signed "under threat of bodily harm (from Weiner)" and should therefore be struck.
In the meantime, the multiple grade I stakes winner and earner of over $2 million is preparing to return to the races this summer. He last started in December's Hong Kong Vase (HK-I) and was unplaced while running for court-appointed receiver Dr. Dennis Milne, a New Jersey veterinarian.
As a result of Henning's ruling, motions have been filed to reinstate the receivership.