Derby Bonus Dispute Heads to Court ... But Which One?

The dispute over the $1-million Illinois Derby bonus earned by War Emblem appears headed for court. Still unresolved: Which court, and upon whose initiative?

War Emblem earned the bonus by winning both the Illinois Derby and the Kentucky Derby. However, between those races, longtime Chicago-area horseman Russell Reineman sold a 90% share of the Our Emblem colt to Prince Ahmed bin Salman's The Thoroughbred Corp.

Since the Kentucky Derby, attorneys for the owners have argued about how the bonus should be divided.

Only four days after War Emblem finished eighth in the Belmont Stakes, attorneys for Salman sued in federal court in California seeking to prevent the National Jockey Club from paying the bonus money when it gets the funds from its insurance company. The NJC owns Sportman's Park, home of the Illinois Derby.

NJC attorney George Lalich replied to Salman's lawyers that the track plans to ask a court in Chicago to resolve the issue. Such a request is known as an "interpleader complaint."

Lalich asked Salman's attorneys to drop their California suit. He contends that even if federal court action is required, the case should be heard in Illinois. If they do not drop the California suit, Lalich said, the NJC will seek to recover its costs for contesting the California action.

"I believe," Lalich told Salman's attorneys, "that the interpleader complaint is not only the most efficient and expeditious process for everyone involved, it is the proper legal mechanism to resolve the subject dispute."

Lalich also held out the option that Salman and Reineman might resolve the dispute without the need for court intervention.