04/16/2007 12:00AM

Reddam, bank resolve Great Hunter dispute


LEXINGTON, Ky. - A dispute over the ownership of Kentucky Derby candidate Great Hunter was resolved just prior to the colt's fifth-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday, the two parties in the dispute said on Monday.

As a result of the resolution, J. Paul Reddam, who purchased Great Hunter for $550,000 last year, will own the horse free and clear of any claims by Fifth Third Bank. In March, lawyers for Fifth Third had notified Reddam that the bank believed it had a claim on the horse because the prior owner had defaulted on loan agreements with the bank.

Dan Baren, Reddam's attorney, said on Monday that details of the resolution were confidential, and he would not disclose whether Reddam made a payment to Fifth Third to settle the matter. Baren had said that in earlier negotiations over the matter Fifth Third was seeking a large settlement payment.

"The bank has abandoned its claim to the horse as a result of the settlement," Baren said. "From now on the focus on Great Hunter will be on the horse's performance and nothing else."

"The parties have settled the case amicably, and the bank no longer asserts any interest in Great Hunter," said Debra DeCourcy, Fifth Third's director of corporate communications. DeCourcy said the bank would have no further comment.

The resolution came two days after Fifth Third sent a letter to Keeneland requesting that the racetrack withhold any purse money earned by Great Hunter in the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes, one of the last major prep races for the Kentucky Derby. After the letter was sent, Reddam criticized the bank for violating an agreement the two sides had reached in which the horse's ownership would not be disputed until a court date on April 21.

Fifth Third had claimed that it held a lien on Great Hunter as a result of a default last year on loans to L. Eric Whetstone, the husband of Great Hunter's previously listed owner, Ilona Whetstone. The bank has said that it has been unable to locate the couple.