12/20/2007 1:00AM

Jackson buys out Curlin partner

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - George Bolton said on Thursday that he sold his share of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Curlin to Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables, increasing speculation that Jackson intends to run the colt in 2008.

Bolton, who owned about 31 percent of Curlin, said he accepted a buyout offer because Jackson told him he planned to run the horse in 2008. But Jackson, through a representative, declined on Thursday to confirm that Curlin would race next year.

Bolton declined to provide a selling price for the transaction, but called it a "generous offer from a generous man."

"Curlin gave my wife, Lindsey, and I probably the best year of our lives, and we remain the horse's biggest fans," Bolton said. "Jess had decided to take the risk and get the rewards, and we wish him all the luck in the world."

Kevin McGee, Jackson's representative, said on Thursday, "At this point, we don't have any comment." A statement issued by Stonestreet Stables earlier in the day announced the buyout, and also said that Curlin would remain in "light training" for the time being.

The future racing career of Curlin, the likely 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year, has been a matter of speculation because of his potential value as a stallion and the complications in the partnership that owns the horse. Earlier this year, Jackson and Bolton bought out another partner, Satish Sanan's Padua Stables. Jackson's remaining partner, Midnight Cry Stables, comprises two Lexington attorneys who are in jail facing fraud charges related to a 2002 settlement over the diet-drug combination phen-fen.

On Tuesday, trainer Steve Asmussen said that Curlin is scheduled for a two-minute lick on Monday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and again the week after that, but that he had not officially received word that Curlin would race in 2008.

Curlin won the Preakness Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Breeders' Cup Classic. He entered the Kentucky Derby undefeated in three starts, but finished third in that race, and later finished second by a nose to the filly Rags to Riches in the Belmont Stakes.

The status of Midnight Cry's share in Curlin is still a matter of dispute. A group that has sued Midnight Cry's principals, William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr., received a ruling earlier this year that allowed the group to collect a share of earnings from the company that controls Midnight Cry, and the group has also filed a motion to foreclose on that company. If the motion is granted, the group would control the 20 percent interest.

Jackson, the co-owner with his wife of Jackson Family Wineries, entered the Thoroughbred racing business in 2003. In recent years, he has spearheaded an effort to force auction companies and agents to accept a code of conduct to address what he has contended is a lack of transparency.

Jackson does not own a stallion, but he has amassed a stable of broodmares and bought shares in many high-profile stallions.