05/09/2004 11:00PM

Monteleone must pay $635K

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A Nevada judge has ruled that California trainer Frank Monteleone and his assistant, Linda Mikus, are liable for compensatory and punitive damages of $635,000 from a civil suit brought by horse owners Joseph Hirshfeld and Ron Holguin.

Hirshfeld and Holguin argued they were defrauded of $100,000 in the purchase and training of two horses from Europe that were supposed to be acquired and trained on their behalf by Monteleone.

The ruling was issued on May 4 by District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti in Clark County, Nevada.

According to court documents, the European horses - Malrome and Musilumieres - never left France.

In a brief phone conversation on Monday, Monteleone said he intends to appeal the court ruling, which he said was a default judgement. He directed all further inquiries to his attorney, Rick Santwier. Reached by telephone, Santwier declined to comment.

The lawsuit was introduced in 1998. The court ruled that Monteleone and Mikus pay Hirshfeld and Holguin $474,634 in punitive damages, $99,830 in general damages, interest of $55,997 and $5,000 in attorney fees.

Monteleone has trained Thoroughbreds since 1992, including the sprint stakes winner Giovannetti.

Monteleone was previously a Quarter Horse trainer and is best known for campaigning Corona Chick, the champion 2-year-old filly of 1991.