Controversy Swirls Around $1 Million War Emblem Bonus

An attorney for The Thoroughbred Corp. says his client is not obligated by contract to split the $1 million bonus earned by War Emblem for winning the Illinois Derby (gr. II) and the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).

Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corp. bought 90% of the colt three weeks before the Kentucky Derby from Chicago industrialist Russell Reineman, who retained a 10% share. War Emblem captured the Illinois Derby while racing for Reineman. Sportsman's Park offered the $1 million bonus to any horse that won both the Illinois Derby and one of the Triple Crown races.

"Nobody connected to the previous owner has contacted me," said Los Angeles attorney Neil Papiano, who represents The Thoroughbred Corp. "I may be contacted soon, but the purchase contract is very clear."

That contract states in part: "After the purchase price has been paid, seller will present Jockey Club papers to the buyers showing the buyer's full ownership. The seller warrants the title to the colt will be conveyed as clear without any liens, without any encumbrances, or without any claims by the seller."

But the Chicago Sun-Times quoted Reineman as saying he is prepared to sue Sportsman's Park unless he receives at least 50% of the bonus. "If I had agreed to sign over the possible bonus, I would have essentially been giving them a free chance to win the Kentucky Derby with my colt. They win and keep the bonus, and they have immediately covered the sale price. Am I supposed to be that bad a businessman?"

The Sun-Times quoted a managing partner of Weinstein, Jones & Associates, the Florida-based insurer of the bonus for Sportsman's Park, as saying the final decision regarding disbursement of the bonus lies entirely with Sportsman's management.

Papiano stated that The Thoroughbred Corp. called him to ask his legal interpretation of the contract when several newspaper reports mentioned there was a controversy as to whether Prince Ahmed would share the bonus with Reineman. "Even though the contract doesn't specifically mention the bonus, I think it's pretty clear they can't come around and make a claim against us," Papiano said. "When you sell title and interest in the horse, you sell whatever goes with the horse.

"I haven't talked to the prince directly, but in my opinion if he offered half the bonus, it would be as a gift. I'm not sure the prince even knows about any of this."

--Lenny Shulman