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Reddam in court over bank's Blue Grass move
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Describing it as "a nuisance," Paul Reddam said he was heading to Orange County Superior Court in Southern California late Friday afternoon to seek sanctions against Fifth Third Bank, which on Thursday sent a letter to Keeneland asking the track to hold whatever money the Reddam-owned Great Hunter might earn in the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes here on Saturday.
Reddam said he was to argue that Fifth Third's action violated a temporary restraining order from last month that said Fifth Third would not interfere with Great Hunter participating in the Blue Grass.
"It's the latest little stunt from the bank," Reddam said from California. "It's beyond ridiculous. It's a ridiculous publicity stunt. They have violated the agreement that they wouldn't do anything. It's just a headache.
"I feel sorry that Keeneland has been put in the middle of this. We are a client of theirs," Reddam said, referring to the fact he races horses here and buys horses at Keeneland's sales, "but at the same time they do commerce with the bank."
Fifth Third sponsors a stakes race at Keeneland and has automatic teller machines on the grounds.
Jim Williams, a spokesman for Keeneland, confirmed that the track received a letter on Thursday from Fifth Third Bank, but said, "I can't comment as to the content of the letter."
Williams said he could not comment on how Keeneland would disburse Great Hunter's purse earnings should he make any money in the Blue Grass. He said Keeneland informed Reddam that they had received the letter from Fifth Third.
Fifth Third has consistently refused comment on the matter, citing the ongoing litigation.
The litigation between Reddam and Fifth Third grew out of a dispute Fifth Third had with Great Hunter's previous owners, Ilona and L. Eric Whetstone, with whom the bank has a lien. The Whetstones bought Great Hunter as a yearling for $30,000 at Keeneland in September 2005, then sold the colt privately to Reddam for $550,000 after he defeated maidens in his second start at Lone Star Park last June.
The bank is claiming that Great Hunter should not have been sold by the Whetstones and is therefore its property. Reddam did not hear from Fifth Third until after Great Hunter had raced several times for him, including a victory in the Breeders' Futurity and a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Great Hunter won the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on March 3 in his first start of 2007.
Exercise rider sore but returns
Trainer Michael Matz, who won last year's Kentucky Derby with the ill-fated Barbaro, has had his share of emotional challenges over the years, including surviving a plane crash in 1989, and he had another one on Thursday at Keeneland. In the morning, Pam Ritter, one of his exercise riders, was injured while riding one of Matz's horses and had to be sent to a local hospital. But that afternoon, Matz won a pair of races, including the Beaumont Stakes with the 3-year-old filly Street Sounds.
It was initially feared that Ritter had serious injuries. But X-rays were negative, and she was at the races that afternoon, albeit a bit sore.
"A horse spooked and fell on top of her," Matz said. "It was scary, but fortunately nothing was broken.
"That's the way it is in this game. You go from one extreme to the other. I was running around this morning trying to get her taken care of, and then we win these races in the afternoon. What a day."
Matz said that Chelokee, who finished a troubled third in the Florida Derby in his last start, would be arriving at Keeneland on Monday from the Palm Meadows training center in Florida, where he spent the winter. Matz is hoping to run Chelokee in the Kentucky Derby, but Chelokee's graded stakes earnings right now put him near the bubble if more than 20 horses are entered.
Ward's 2-year-old supply limited
The breathtaking manner in which One Hot Wish lowered the world record for 4 1/2 furlongs Thursday at Keeneland had the place buzzing. By itself, the smashing victory was big news, but the fact that trainer Wesley Ward had sent out a 2-year-old as fast as a rocket ship was not.
Ward has established quite a reputation for himself as a trainer of 2-year-olds. At the current Santa Anita meet, he sent out the winners of the first three two-furlong races for babies before finally losing with a fourth. And before One Hot Wish won Thursday by 12 1/4 lengths in 48.87 seconds, Ward also beat a group of 2-year-old colts with a filly, Yogi'ssplashofgold, in the opening race of the meet on April 6.
But don't look for too much more of the same, at least for this spring. Ward said his early barrage of 2-year-old winners has almost been emptied, and that Billie Bob, who finished out of the money as the favorite in the third race Friday, and Sunshine Lover, who was scratched from the same race, "are pretty much all I have left, at least until races for winners start."
Ward, who is in the process of permanently leaving his longtime base in Southern California to run divisions in south Florida and Kentucky, said his uncanny success with 2-year-olds is largely attributable to the way he prioritizes his attention.
"I start earlier than most trainers, and by this time of year I have them funneled down to which ones are capable of doing this kind of thing and who isn't," said Ward, 39.
Ward, a 50-percent owner in One Hot Wish, almost surely will not get another chance to run the filly again. He and his partner Bob Tanklage are selling her Tuesday at the 2-year-olds in training sale at Keeneland.
Asi Siempre to go in Doubledogdare
A full slate of stakes activity resumes Wednesday when Asi Siempre heads the lineup for the Grade 3, $100,000 Doubledogdare Stakes. Asi Siempre closed out 2006 with a flourish, winning the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland and finishing second (although disqualified to fourth) behind Round Pond in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Asi Siempre, trained by Patrick Biancone, will be making her 5-year-old debut in the Doubledogdare, which goes at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack.
The balance of the stakes schedule for the coming week is the $100,000 Forerunner on Thursday, the $150,000 Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings steeplechase on Friday, the $325,000 Lexington Stakes and $100,000 Giant's Causeway on Saturday, and the $100,000 Appalachian on Sunday.
The Grade 2 Lexington, the final graded prep for the Kentucky Derby, likely will have a large field, according to Keeneland's stakes coordinator, Tyler Picklesimer. Belgravia, also trained by Biancone, looks like the probable favorite.
Jazil headed to Elkhorn
Jazil, last year's Belmont Stakes winner, was scratched from Friday's fifth race, a second-level allowance on the turf. It would have been his first grass race.
"He's going to run in the Elkhorn Stakes," Neal McLaughlin, the brother of and top assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, said Friday afternoon at Keeneland, referring to a 1 1/2-mile, $200,000 grass race at Keeneland on April 27. "We figured if he was going to try the turf, it might as well be in a stakes instead of an allowance race."
He Loves Me Not loves that Polytrack
By striding clear in the final yards of the sixth race Thursday at Keeneland, He Loves Me Not ran his record on Polytrack to 3 for 3. Meanwhile, on other surfaces the gelding is 1 for 10.
"He was looking like a champ down the lane, wasn't he?" asked his trainer, Dallas Stewart. "That's why we're in this game, to see them run like that."
Durkin to sit in for Lincoln at dinner
Tom Durkin, the voice of racing on NBC Sports and for the Kentucky Derby and New York Racing Association tracks, will replace Chris Lincoln as a co-host at the annual Kentucky Derby Trainers Dinner, which is set for May 1 at the Hyatt Regency in Louisville. The dinner is hosted by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders.
Lincoln, who had co-hosted the dinner for more than 20 years with Paul Rogers, told the hosting groups he would no longer be able to do so because of family commitments. Rogers, a local radio sports broadcaster, will co-host with Durkin.
- additional reporting by Marty McGee