04/01/2007 11:00PM

Agreement in lien case

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A judge in Orange County, Calif., Superior Court has approved an agreement between J. Paul Reddam, the owner of Kentucky Derby hopeful Great Hunter, and Fifth Third Bank that will prevent the bank or anyone else from taking possession of the 3-year-old colt before a hearing on April 17, the attorney for Reddam said on Monday.

The judge signed off on the agreement on Thursday, when Reddam's lawyer, Dan Baren, appeared in the court to ask for a temporary restraining order preventing Fifth Third Bank from taking any action to claim the horse. The bank has alleged that Reddam purchased Great Hunter last year while the horse was under a lien held by the bank.

Baren said Monday that Reddam was seeking the restraining order so that the colt would not get caught up in any legal proceedings after arriving in Kentucky to compete in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Racecourse on April 14.

"It gives us the confidence we need to bring the horse to Kentucky and not have someone try to steal the horse from us," Baren said.

Debra DeCourcey, the director of communications for Fifth Third, said the bank would not comment on the matter, citing company policy.

Reddam purchased Great Hunter last summer for $550,000 from Ilona Whetsone. Fifth Third claimed in March that the horse was used as collateral by Whetstone and her husband, L. Eric Whetstone, for loans that the couple eventually defaulted on. The bank claims that the Whetstones cannot be located.

Baren said that he will seek a permanent restraining order against the bank at the hearing on April 17. A lawsuit filed by Reddam against the bank seeking to establish that the sale was legal will likely take several months to be heard, Baren said.