02/16/2007 12:00AM

Groups call to table sale legislation

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - New auction-reform legislation backed by Jess Jackson will not reach a vote for at least year, thanks to a compromise between Jackson, owner of Stonestreet Stable, and bloodstock sales interests.

But now the parties must reopen debate on two contentious issues - disclosure of auction horses' true owners and of medications the horses have received - in a newly formed Sales Integrity Task Force.

Under an agreement signed Wednesday by Jackson, representatives of Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton, and representatives of several breeders' and consignors' groups have asked Kentucky legislators to table House Bill 388, which called for full disclosure of ownership and veterinary histories for sale horses. In return, all the parties have agreed to reinstate the integrity task force, give Jackson a seat on the panel, and "work on developing industry consensus" on the veterinary and ownership disclosure issues and on the possibility of licensing bloodstock agents and consignors, the agreement states.

Signing the agreement were Jackson, Bayne Welker of the Consignors and Commercial Breeders Association, Walt Robertson of Fasig-Tipton, Nick Nicholson of Keeneland, Dan Metzger of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and Rep. Larry Clark, a Democrat representing Jefferson County who was a co-sponsor of HB 388. Also present during negotiations Tuesday at Keeneland was Three Chimneys Farm owner Robert Clay, who helped convene the meeting.

In a related move, legislation was introduced Wednesday that would require licensing bloodstock agents and consignors under the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority's jurisdiction. House Bill 497, supported by Jackson, is sponsored by Joni Jenkins, also a Democrat of Jefferson County and a co-sponsor of HB 388. HB 497 was introduced solely as a matter of record, and neither legislators nor Jackson will pursue it in 2007.

The integrity task force originally released its code of ethics for bloodstock transactions in December 2004, but the document contained no penalties for infractions. It also did not require disclosure of the ownership interests in sales horses before an auction, a subject that major auction buyer and task force member Satish Sanan of Padua Stables had pushed onto the agenda after boycotting several auctions. The ownership disclosure issue was the most contentious subject the panel addressed, Sanan and other task force members acknowledged at the time. Opponents of ownership disclosure, including Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton, have expressed concerns that it denies sellers privacy. Jackson's now-tabled HB 388 called for complete disclosure of a horse's ownership, including when an owner invested in the horse if the investment was made within the last 12 months.

Kevin McGee, president of Jackson's Horse Owners' Protective Association, said he believes a reinstated task force will tackle the issue successfully this time, especially if it allows non-Thoroughbred horse buyers into the discussion.

"I've been told by people involved that the task force committee that was addressing the transparency of ownership issue was constituted primarily of sales and consignment stakeholders," McGee said. "We're going to specifically make an effort to reconstitute the sales task force and not only include more buyer and owner representatives, but also to include for these specific purposes Standardbred and non-Thoroughbred breed representatives, because the bills, by design, are not specific just to Thoroughbreds."

Under the industry groups' agreement, the task force will report its progress to the state legislature's Interim Joint Licensing and Occupations Committee on June 30, Sept. 30, and Dec. 31. The final report will outline the industry's consensus and make recommendations for legislation, if any, for the 2008 legislative session.

"The message that came down from House leadership is that we need to get together and build consensus and get our house in order, or there's a very real possibility that they will set our house in order, and we might not like what they come up with," McGee said. "I think it's a pretty historic opportunity to make changes that will be felt in the industry for decades to come."

In related news, Jackson's Horse Owners' Protective Association and Sanan's Alliance for Industry Reform are poised to merge. Both groups developed out of their founders' efforts to promote transparency and integrity in bloodstock transactions.

First foal for Azeri

Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, produced her first foal, an A.P. Indy colt, on Feb. 14 at Hill 'n' Dale Farms in Lexington.

A 9-year-old Jade Hunter mare, Azeri belongs to the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust. She will be bred back to Storm Cat in 2007, Hill 'n' Dale said.

Azeri was voted champion older mare in 2002, 2003, and 2004. She was Horse of the Year in 2002 after winning the Breeders' Cup Distaff and four other Grade 1 races.

Harrison, of English farm, dies

Leslie Harrison, manager of Lord Howard de Walden's Plantation Stud in England for 33 years, died Feb. 11 of a brain hemorrhage. He was 63.

Under his management and from a small broodmare band, Plantation produced such stars as English champion juveniles Diesis and Grand Lodge, two-time champion miler Kris, and 1985 Epsom Derby winner and champion 3-year-old Slip Anchor. Harrison also bred world-class lurchers, a breed of dog used for coursing, and hosted a pedigree analysts' weekly salon in his Newmarket home.

Harrison's widow, Ruth, was planning a public memorial to be held at Newmarket in April.