01/23/2002 12:00AM

A partnership goes sour first time around


ALBANY, Calif. - Dee King and trainer Frances Henderson say they rue the day they met.

A Cinderella racing story has degenerated into a bitter, seemingly unending battle over stakes-winning Peteski's Charm, the first and only horse King and Henderson bred and owned together.

The two have another in a long string of hearings scheduled Saturday before the stewards at Golden Gate Fields.

King, a financial broker who also runs Racer's Cafe in San Francisco, met Henderson six years ago at a "Meet the Trainers" night.

"My game plan was to breed horses," King said, adding that she chose Henderson because she felt more comfortable dealing with another woman.

Henderson had a broodmare, Love Charm, in Kentucky, and the two new partners bred him to Peteski.

The resulting foal, Peteski's Charm, was a success, banking $134,000 and winning the Emerald Downs Derby in September 2000.

The dispute started soon after. The two arranged for Henderson to buy King's half of Peteski's Charm for $60,000. The sale was to have been completed by Oct. 27, 2000.

The check for the final $6,500 payment from Henderson was returned because of insufficient funds. King then brought a complaint to the stewards at Golden Gate Fields. The stewards recused themselves from the case at Henderson's request, and the stewards in Sacramento at Cal Expo heard the case.

That board of stewards ruled in King's favor, saying that Henderson must pay King within 30 days. Henderson appealed the ruling, and an administrative law judge again ruled in King's favor. The California Horse Racing Board adopted the ruling of the administrative law judge.

But King still received no payment. She informed the Sacramento stewards, and they issued a ruling on Nov. 7, 2001, that allowed Henderson until Dec. 8, 2001, to pay in full.

The payment still was not made, and the stewards in Sacramento worked out a payment plan, with no interest, for her. But King says she was on record that she would not agree to any payment plan.

King claims the plan was put in place by John Harris, one of the members of the California Horse Racing Board.

Harris said he had talked with both Henderson and King about the matter, but said, "I had nothing to do with the decision."

Harris, in fact, thinks the CHRB "needs to revisit" the policy where stewards are forced to make decisions in money disputes. He believes too much time is taken up with these cases when they could be decided in other venues.

Will Meyers, one of the Sacramento stewards, said that Henderson was "up to date" on the payment schedule that had been set up but warned that if she doesn't abide by the agreement, she faces suspension of her license.

Henderson has her own beefs with King. She claims King did not keep up with board payments on Peteski's Charm and Love Charm after the colt was foaled in 1997 and that King later went eight months without paying bills. Those claims have not been formally brought before the stewards. "I paid for everything up front all the way," Henderson said.

Henderson also says there was a dispute over the horse's selling price and when the sale was to be completed.

Peteski's Charm has not run since finishing sixth in the Forty Niner Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Nov. 24, 2000. Henderson said she is currently trying to decide whether she should return him to training or stand him as a stallion.

King said that she is looking for another trainer and hopes to remain in the sport as an owner.