Legal Battle Over Lawyer Ron's Career 'in Limbo'

Lawyer Ron's victory in the July 28 Whitney Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga apparently has had no impact on the lawsuit between his owners, a legal dispute that one of the principal parties described as being "in limbo."

The estate of breeder-owner James T. Hines Jr., which in May 2006 sold an 80% interest in Lawyer Ron to a subsidiary of Stonewall Farms Stallions, still controls the colt’s racing career by virtue of a judge’s ruling last November.

But a counter suit by Stonewall Farms, which is headed by Audrey Haisfield, is still alive in Fayette County (Ky.) Circuit Court. The action claims the estate’s executor, attorney Ronald J. Bamberger (for whom Lawyer Ron is named), breached fiduciary duties owed to the partnership by continuing to race the colt in 2007.

Bamberger said not much significant action has taken place in the last few months.

The case has “been sitting in limbo,” said Bamberger in a July 30 telephone interview from Saratoga, where he was still basking in Lawyer Ron’s first grade-I triumph. “It’s still in litigation. There’s not been a lot of activity. There have been depositions on both sides.

“But it’s getting close to the time where it’s going to be appropriate to move the case along.”

A review of court records on Aug. 1 by The Blood-Horse indicated that no pleadings have been filed in the case since mid-April. Lexington attorney John T. Hamilton, who represents Stonewall Farms, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Stonewall Farms wanted to retire Lawyer Ron after the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, in which the colt finished ninth. But the estate wanted to continue racing the colt, partly because he hadn’t won a grade-I race.

The owners disputed contractual language in the purchase agreement, which included an up-front payment of $3.52 million, and potential bonuses ranging from $750,000 to $2 million for specific victories or awards.

Stonewall Farms contends that under the agreement, it had the right to take control of Lawyer Ron’s career after he failed to finish first or second in both of his first two races following the purchase, which included a 12th-place effort in the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

The Hines estate claims Lawyer Ron only had to finish in the top two of either race, and has fulfilled that obligation since the transaction. A judge agreed with the estate’s interpretation of the contract last November, and Bamberger continues to control the racing career of the colt, who is trained by Todd Pletcher.

Lawyer Ron, a 4-year-old son of Langfuhr  , has won 11 times in 23 career starts, with earnings of $2,340,008.

The colt had surgery to remove bone chips shortly after his out-of-the-money finish in the Derby, but returned last August to win the inaugural St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park.  He then finished second in the Super Derby (gr. II), ninth in the Classic, first in a February allowance race at Gulfstream Park, first in the April 7 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II), third in the May 28 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) and second in the June 23 Salvator Mile Handicap (gr. III) before his Whitney victory.

Stonewall Farms Stallions, which stands about a dozen stallions, is located near Versailles, Ky. Lawyer Ron races in the name of Hines Racing, a Kentucky limited liability company whose members include the Hines estate and Stonewall Farms Stallions Racing Division.

Bamberger said the Kentucky farm property owned by Hines is still listed for sale at $1.35 million. The 60-acre parcel, which includes a 10,000-square-foot home, is located in Daviess County. A dispersal of about 90 Hines-owned horses was completed last year.

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