Trainer Helen Pitts had been pointing the 6-year-old son of Spend a Buck toward the June 7 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont, but the nearly-black horse is currently not allowed to race in New York because of a licensing issue with his owners. And since he and the winner of the Foster, Curlin, have some of the same owners, it raises the question whether the reigning Horse of the Year would be allowed to run in the Empire State.
“We have no current information on the ownership make-up of Curlin,” said Dan Toomey, the public information officer for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. “Once a horse is entered into the racing secretary’s office, the board will do a check to make sure all the owners who need to be licensed are in fact licensed in New York.”
Shirley Cunningham and William Gallion, the partners in Midnight Cry Stables, own all of Einstein and 20% of Curlin. Earlier this month, Cunningham withdrew his application for an owner’s license in New York. Although Einstein has been leased to Cunningham’s wife, Patricia, and Gallion’s fiancée, Melissa Green, a regulation in New York kept him from racing there.
“In New York, they require both the lessor and the lessee to be licensed or be eligible to be licensed,” said John Veitch, chief steward for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority. “We currently do not require the lessor to be licensed. That may change; it may not.”
Attorneys Cunningham and Gallion are in jail in Kentucky while on trial for charges of misappropriating funds from a $200 million settlement from a class-action lawsuit. Because they are incarcerated, they could be denied an owner’s license. Cunningham also withdrew his application in Kentucky, but Curlin is currently leased to his wife.
“You can be charged with a crime and still be eligible to be licensed (in Kentucky),” explained Veitch. “In 2007, they had been charged with a crime, but they were not incarcerated. But there was a possibility if they applied for a license in 2008, they could have been denied because of their current incarceration. They decided not to apply rather than risk being denied.”
Kentucky is in the process of reviewing its regulations regarding who is required to have an owner’s license. One possibility under consideration is requiring both the lessor and the lessee of a horse to have a license.
“We are looking into that,” said Veitch. “We feel that there is a reason for the lessor to also be eligible to hold a license.”
Curlin’s principal owner, Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables, has mentioned the colt may be pointed toward the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) if he runs well in a turf race in the United States. His trainer, Steve Asmussen, said Curlin would work on the turf, and they would find a grass race for him the weekend of July 12-13.
Einstein, meanwhile, is being pointed toward the Aug. 9 Arlington Million (gr. IT). In Illinois, the owners listed in the program are the ones required to have licenses.
Additionally, in California, where the Breeders’ Cup World Championships will take place in October, only the lessee of a horse has to be licensed.