10/15/2008 12:00AM

Challenge raised to Keeneland's Curlin auction

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Keeneland has begun to conduct a sealed-bid auction for a 20 percent share in 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, with all bids due by Nov. 5, 11 days after the 4-year-old colt is expected to run in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park.

The 20 percent share is currently being held in court-ordered receivership because of the legal troubles of the share's owners, Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion. A Kentucky civil court ruled earlier this year that those two Lexington lawyers defrauded their clients in a 2002 settlement with the manufacturer of the diet-drug combination fen-phen, and both Cunningham and Gallion are currently awaiting a retrial on criminal charges related to the $200 million settlement.

The sealed-bid auction is being challenged by the lawyer for Cunningham and Gallion, Andre Regard, who filed a motion to vacate the order to conduct the auction with the court. Roger Crittenden, the judge in the case, has not issued an opinion on the motion, according to Regard.

The attorney representing the receiver, Sylvius von Saucken, was not available for comment on Wednesday afternoon, according to assistants at his law firm.

The other 80 percent of Curlin is owned by Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables, which has a right to match any offer for the 20 percent stake under a previous sales agreement and can also place its own bid. Because of Stonestreet's ability to participate in the auction or pay the price set by the winning bidder, several officials involved in the case doubt that the auction will attract any competitive bids.

Curlin is the leading North American money-winner of all time, with $10,246,800 in earnings. Going into the Breeders' Cup, he has won seven consecutive Grade or Group 1 races. Stonestreet has not made a decision yet on whether to retire the horse after the 2008 season, in part because of the complications surrounding the 20 percent stake.