11/07/2008 1:00AM

No sealed bids in Curlin auction

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A sealed-bid auction for a 20 percent stake in 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin failed to attract any qualified bids, according to the court-appointed receiver who oversaw the auction. Bids were due by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

In a statement, Sylvius H. von Saucken, the attorney for the court-appointed receiver, said that the 20 percent share is now being marketed privately to parties who had expressed an interest in the stake during the bidding process, though it is not certain that the negotiations will result in a sale.

Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stable owns 80 percent of Curlin. The 20 percent stake is held by Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion, two Lexington, Ky., lawyers who have been disbarred and found guilty in civil court of improperly keeping a portion of a $200 million settlement with the manufacturer of the diet-drug combination fen-phen. The judge in the case mandated the sealed-bid auction as a way to satisfy the judgments against the two lawyers, who are also facing criminal charges.

Several racing officials had expressed doubts that the auction would result in any qualified bids, in part because Jackson had the right to refuse the bid.

Von Saucken would not say how many bids were received or identify any of the bidders. He said a final sale of the 20 percent stake would be subject to a review of the court.

"The market echoed the same concerns we had going in, that a minority interest owned by folks with legal problems is a hard sell for those who prefer simplicity over complexity," von Saucken said.

Jackson's legal counsel, Richard Getty, did not return phone calls on Friday.

The sale of the 20 percent stake in Curlin will likely determine whether Curlin will run next year or be retired. Currently, 20 percent of the horse's earnings are being held in escrow, and it is unlikely that the horse would enter stud without a resolution of the legal problems surrounding the stake.