03/13/2007 11:00PM

Lien claim on Great Hunter

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - A central Kentucky bank is claiming that Great Hunter, the winner of the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes and a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby, is the subject of a lien against the previous owner's assets prior to his sale last summer to Paul Reddam, according to Reddam and his attorney.

Reddam, who said he purchased Great Hunter for $550,000 in June last year, received a letter recently from Fifth Third Bank claiming there is a lien on the horse. The horse's listed owner at the time of the sale was Ilona Whetstone, the wife of L. Eric Whetstone.

"I paid for the horse, and at the time I bought him, there was no lien on the Jockey Club papers," Reddam said. "It could be a little bit of a mess, but I don't think they're going to be coming around the barn anytime soon with a lead shank."

Reddam's attorney, Paul Baren, said that he has talked with the bank about the lien, but that nothing has been resolved.

"We just got this a week ago," Baren said Wednesday of the letter. "Nothing has happened. We're trying to determine the validity of the bank's claim, and we're amicably discussing with them a possible resolution."

According to recent articles in the Olympian, a Washington newspaper, L. Eric Whetstone was convicted several times in the 1980's and 1990's for fraud in Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Last year, Fifth Third withdrew a $125 million loan offer to Whetstone, who was trying to convert a Washington brewery into a water-bottling plant, when the bank learned of the convictions.

Reddam and Baren said the bank had not been able to locate Whetstone. Joe Petalino, who trains horses for the Whetstones and brokered the sale of Great Hunter, said on Wednesday that the couple had recently moved and that he did not have a telephone number. A Harrisburg, Pa., number provided by the Texas Racing Commission was answered by a woman who said that the number was incorrect.

John McGarvey, a lawyer with Morgan and Pottinger in Louisville who is dealing with Fifth Third's claim, said he could not comment about the bank's letter to Reddam, and referred a reporter to the bank's public-relations firm, which did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

Great Hunter, by Aptitude out of Roy mare Zenith, was bought at the 2005 Keeneland September sale for $30,000. Late in his 2-year-old campaign, he won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity, and in his final start of 2006 he finished third in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He has won 3 of 8 starts and earned $750,000.