Expensive Mare at Center of Legal Dispute
Photo: Joseph DiOrio
Love Me Only sold for $2.1 million at the 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

A leading sales agency and three horse owners continue to wrangle with another prominent breeder over the November 2011, $2.1 million sale of the mare Love Me Only, as the purchaser alleges fraud by the consignors.

At issue is the purchase by Summer Wind Farm of Love Me Only, a half sister to leading sire Giant's Causeway  , from Eaton Sales' consignment to the 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Eaton consigned the mare on behalf of Orpendale, Chelston Ireland, and Wynatt. The mare was at Ashford Stud, one of North America's premier breeding and stallion operations, for six weeks prior to her sale at Keeneland. Also named as a defendant in the suit is Bemak, doing business as Ashford.

After the mare was transported to Summer Wind, the Georgetown, Ky., farm owned by Frank and Jane Lyons, Love Me Only appeared to have physical problems and was deemed by one veterinarian to be lame.The Lyonses eventually notified Keeneland and Eaton that they intended to rescind their purchase of Love Me Only, an unraced daughter of leading European sire Sadler's Wells, contending that the mare's true condition was masked by having her medicated and that various parties associated with the owner and agent had misrepresented various aspects of the mare's breeding status and condition. The lawsuit filed by Summer Wind contends the actions of the defendants violated Keeneland's Conditions of Sale.

Except to acknowledge in court documents that Love Me Only had been administered phenylbutazone (commonly known as "Bute") five times from Nov. 5 until her sale Nov. 8, the defendants deny all of the allegations in the suit, and maintain that none of the Conditions of Sale were violated and there was no fraudulent concealment prior to the sale of the mare.

Love Me Only, a now-5-year-old, has since produced two foals for Summer Wind. Her first foal, which she was carrying when sold at Keeneland, is a colt by Gilltown Stud sire Sea the Stars. The second foal produced by Love Me Only is a Distorted Humor   colt named Only Joking who was born April 14 of this year.

According to the lawsuit, an employee of Eaton Sales showing the mare prior to sale told Jane Lyons, upon her request, that the mare had no medical issues and that she had become pregnant on her first cover. Later, according to the suit, Eaton Sales' Reiley McDonald confirmed for Summer Wind manager Mark Moloney that he knew the mare was lame prior to going through the sales ring and that she had been administered Bute. Also, it later became known that Love Me Only was covered at least twice during the 2011 breeding season. Except for the acknowledgement that Love Me Only was administered the medication, Eaton denies the allegations made in the suit.

The suit states that Love Me Only began to exhibit physical problems and was very sore "on or about Nov. 10 and 11," three days after going through the Keeneland sales ring.

Following two subsequent veterinary examinations that determined the mare was suffering from laminitis, Summer Wind notified Keeneland's director of sales Geoffrey Russell on Nov. 14 that it intended to return the mare and have the sale rescinded. That oral notification was later confirmed in writing, the court documents state.

One report, from Dr. Scott Pierce based on an examination performed by Dr. Scott Morrison, concluded that the x-rays and clinical signs indicated "chronic laminitis." Pierce and Morrison are both associated with Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital. The other veterinary report by Dr. Bryan Fraley said the mare had "an acute episode of laminitis in which Love Me Only's coffin bone had significantly sunk." Fraley questioned Love Me Only's long-term ability to be a broodmare as a result of her condition.

Subsequent drug tests performed on Love Me Only by veterinarians representing Summer Wind concluded that the mare had "large quantities of Bute in her system," according to the suit.

In seeking to have the purchase rescinded, Summer Wind contends the administration of the Bute violated a Condition of Sale that prohibits "any invasive practice which intentionally conceals a material defect or chronic lameness."

Keeneland declined to rescind the sale of Love Me Only and later became a party to the litigation in order to have the Lyonses remit to the sales company the $2.1 million purchase price.

Keeneland's Conditions of Sale state buyers are to notify the sales company of their intention to reject a sale within 24 hours of the sale or before the horse leaves the sales grounds. The sales company's medication policy allows for the administration of up to two non-steroidal anti-inflammatories prior to sale and disclosure of such is not required.

The defendants state in their responses to the suit that pre-sale veterinary records for Love Me Only did not indicate any laminitis and that she was subsequently deemed to be "perfectly sound" when inspected by prominent veterinarian Ric Redden on their behalf.

Also, according to the defendants' response, McDonald notified an Ashford representative that Love Me Only was administered Bute because she was foot sore and "slightly off on her turn" due to the number of times she was inspected prior to sale.

Since the original suit was filed in early 2012 and an amended complaint filed in May of last year, attorneys for both sides have filed various motions supporting their respective positions.

Recently, Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone told attorneys for the defendants to provide attorneys for Summer Wind additional records, including all medical and training records for Love Me Only, if any more records than those already produced exist. The judge also approved requests by the plaintiffs' attorney, Bill Hoskins, to have Eaton Sales disclose additional information sought by Summer Wind.

The defendants are represented in the case by Barry Hunter.

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