03/23/2008 11:00PM

Darley empire expands in Australia

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - In a deal worth about $453 million, Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum has privately purchased Bob Ingham's entire Woodlands Stud operation in Australia, adding 9,000 acres and about 1,000 horses to his worldwide Thoroughbred empire, Maktoum's bloodstock representative, John Ferguson, confirmed Monday.

The purchase will add one of Australia's most famous breeding and racing operations to Darley's existing holdings in Australia. The Woodlands program has produced such Australian champions as Octagonal and Lonhro, both of whom are among the stallions included in the sale.

The deal includes two stud farms, one at Jerrys Plains in the Hunter Valley and another at Cootamundra, as well as three training centers. Darley also gets the farm's 11 stallions, about 300 broodmares, 300 to 400 horses in training, and all of the Woodlands weanlings and yearlings, said Ferguson. Arrangements also have been made for the current Woodlands staff of about 260 employees to stay on under the auspices of Darley.

"Sheikh Mohammed has agreed to purchase the bloodstock in its entirety on the understanding of the responsibility that goes with it, in terms of maintaining its staff and maintaining the standard set by Woodlands. It is a very exciting deal for Sheikh Mohammed. He has been an admirer of Australian racing and the Australians' passion for the horse over the last few years.

"We've had an operation here for the last five years and have concentrated primarily on the stallions. But now, as a result of this, we will step more into racehorse ownership and breeding to race rather than breeding to sell. Basically, Woodlands will continue to be run as Woodlands but will become part of Darley Australia."

Darley currently has two stud farms in Australia, one in New South Wales and the other in Victoria, which have served as a Southern Hemisphere base for such shuttlers as champion Bernardini and others. Stallions currently advertised at Woodlands include Octagonal, his son Lonhro, Ad Valorem, Canny Lad, Commands, Domesday, Manton, Over, Quest for Fame, Strategic, and Viscount.

Woodlands Stud was developed by Bob Ingham and his late brother, Jack, who died in 2003 at age 75. For the last 25 years, the Inghams have been leading owners in Australia.

"The sale of the bloodstock business was not something I was contemplating," Bob Ingham, 77, said in a statement. "Once approached by Darley, I decided it was an opportunity I should accept."

Ingham said he would keep the family's racing colors and would continue to own racehorses.

Darley's purchase is subject to approval by Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board.

Redoute's Choice yearling top seller in Australia

The news of Woodlands Stud's sale came on opening day of the Magic Millions Conrad Jupiters yearling sale, which had been delayed from January due to Australia's equine influenza outbreak last summer.

The auction, one of the Southern Hemisphere's premier yearling auctions, had an $725,000 (Australian) session-topper, a colt by Redoute's Choice out of Marshow, at Monday's opening session. That price translates to about $657,149.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club purchased the colt, a half-brother to Group 2 winner and Group 1-placed Into the Night, from Baramul Stud. It was the Hong Kong Jockey Club's sole purchase Monday.

The opening session sold 84 yearlings for about $11,216,696, resulting in an average price of about $133,532. The first part of the yearling sale on Australia's Gold Coast will continue through Thursday.

Suit filed over It's No Joke dispute

Sunland Park owner Stan Fulton and Audrey Haisfield's Stonewall Stallions near Versailles, Ky., have begun a legal battle over Fulton's 2006 sale of the stallion It's No Joke to the farm for $1.1 million.

In a complaint filed in Fayette Circuit Court on March 14, Fulton claims that an affiliate of Stonewall has defaulted on its payments for the stallion, which had been taking place in monthly installments of $30,745. Fulton is seeking what he says is the balance of $813,160, interest, and the return of the Distorted Humor horse, who stands for $5,000 this year.

In its counterclaim, Stonewall Stallions alleges Fulton sold It's No Joke to Stonewall without having a clear and unencumbered title to the horse. The 6-year-old stallion covered his first mares in 2007 and is still breeding this season, according to the farm's attorney, John Hamilton.

"It was discovered that there was a lien in Mr. Fulton's name filed in Nevada for $6 billion," Hamilton said Monday. That lien, Hamilton said, is attached to all Fulton's assets, and Stonewall believes that would also include It's No Joke. According to Stonewall's counterclaim, the lien is in the form of a Uniform Commercial Code financing statement filed by a John-Theodore Anderson in Nevada, who claims interests totaling about $6 billion in assets of Fulton, the Anchor Gaming company Fulton formerly chaired, and Anchor Gaming's former partner, International Game Technology.

Hamilton said the farm is seeking refund of its payments on the horse, to return the horse to Fulton, and a rescission of the sale.

David Royce, an attorney on the team representing Fulton, said the Stonewall counter-claim was "without merit."

Elmendorf Farm co-owner dies in accident

Elizabeth Lampton, owner of historic Elmendorf Farm in Lexington with her husband Dinwiddie Lampton Jr., died last Saturday after a carriage-driving accident on the farm on Paris Pike near Lexington. Lampton, a renowned coaching enthusiast and talented driver, was 74.

Lampton and three others were thrown from her carriage Friday afternoon when the horses drawing it were spooked. The carriage hit a tree and then a fence. Lampton died at the University of Kentucky hospital, where she was being treated for severe injuries, including head trauma. One other passenger sustained a broken leg, while the remaining two suffered only minor injuries, according to news reports.