01/27/2006 12:00AM

Jackson's goal: Help the little guy

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Stonestreet Stables owner Jess Jackson took time out of a crowded schedule to meet with Kentucky state legislators on Thursday. His message: pass HB 446, a bill introduced on Jan. 24 by Rep. Denver Butler (D-Louisville).

Supporters like Jackson hope the bill will offer additional protection for horse owners who believe they have been cheated in the purchase or sale of a horse.

HB 446 calls for requiring a written bill of sale, signed by both the seller and the buyer, in any such transaction. It also would require full disclosure by any agent representing both the buyer and the seller in a horse deal - a practice called dual agency - as well as the written consent of both buyer and seller, stating they agree to the dual agency. And it would "prohibit an agent from accepting compensation or another item of value from a party other than the one he or she represents without disclosing the payment to both the buyer and seller" and obtaining their consent.

But the most important point, Jackson says, is the bill's call to guarantee triple damages, plus attorneys' fees and court costs, to any person who successfully sues for fraud. That's crucial, Jackson said, because it gives lawyers incentive to take cases involving relatively small amounts of money. That's also the reason Jackson has launched the Horse Owners' Protective Association, a group to help investigate horsemen's fraud allegations.

"These two steps we're taking are to help the little guy," Jackson said. "Most of the big guys can help themselves."

Why is one of the Thoroughbred game's big fish so willing to fight this battle? Partly because he doesn't want the business to get a black eye from the perception that misdeeds are common.

"It discourages good capital investment in the Thoroughbred industry, and not just in Kentucky, but in Florida, California, New York, New Mexico," said Jackson, adding that one buyer's bad experience can dissuade several more from ever getting in the game.

But Jackson also sympathizes with smaller players - buyers and sellers - who might be defrauded but don't have any means to pursue a case.

"I was born poor," he said. "I grew up in the Depression and Second World War and several wars since. I was lucky. I have enough to protect myself. Most people don't."

Jackson's Horse Owners' Protective Association, though still in the planning stages, could eventually offer such services as investigating fraud claims and recommending legal counsel. Jackson said his group also plans to produce and distribute educational materials to help owners avoid fraud.

And it isn't just about protecting buyers, he said. "We've heard from dozens of consignors saying they want this, because they're in the middle," he said. "They're faced with being blackmailed or worse if they don't cooperate with kickbacks on this or that transaction."

In the end, Jackson said he believes the majority of public and private horse sales are above-board. But he's not content to accept the ones that aren't.

"It doesn't happen in the majority of transactions," he said, "but one would be too much. It happens quite a bit, and the impact is very negative."

Wild Wonder dies at 12

Successful young sire Wild Wonder, sire of Grade 1-winning 2-year-old filly Wild Fit, died Wednesday at Buck Bond Farm. A preliminary necropsy report indicates that the 12-year-old stallion died of a ruptured aorta, according to Buck Pond owner Doug Arnold.

Wild Wonder had been due to stand this season at Buck Pond for a $7,500 fee. Buck Pond recently had sold a three-quarter interest in the Wild Again horse to undisclosed investors, a move that had helped fill the stallion's book quickly for the coming season.

"He was a horse who had a lot of upside," said Buck Pond manager Travis White.

A multiple graded stakes winner, Wild Wonder earned $639,036 from a career record of 20-9-5-4. He won or placed in 16 stakes and set a track record of 1:33.20 for a mile at Emerald Downs in the 1998 Longacres Mile, a Grade 3 event.

In addition to Wild Fit, Wild Wonder also is the sire of last year's Grade 2 winner Fusaichi Rock Star. He has sired five crops, four of which have reached the races, and at the time of his death had more than $2.5 million in progeny earnings.