05/06/2002 12:00AM

Reineman wants half of War Emblem's bonus


STICKNEY, Ill. - Russell Reineman, who sold 90 percent of War Emblem three weeks before the colt won Saturday's Kentucky Derby, said Monday that he believes he is entitled to a significant portion of the $1 million bonus War Emblem earned by winning the Illinois Derby and the Kentucky Derby.

Reineman said he should receive at least 50 percent of the bonus. In comments that have been widely reported since the Derby, Bob Baffert - who took over War Emblem's training from Frank Springer after the colt's sale to Prince Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corp. - suggested that the bonus would be divided along the lines of the colt's sale, 90 percent to the Thoroughbred Corp., 10 percent to Reineman. War Emblem was sold for $900,000 after he romped in the Illinois Derby at Sportsman's Park.

"I have mixed emotions about the whole thing," said Reineman, 84, a horse owner for more than 50 years. "My daughter feels like I'm entitled to 100 percent of it, but I'd be happy with 50 percent."

Neither Baffert nor The Thoroughbred Corp.'s racing manager, Richard Mulhall, returned phone calls on Monday.

Reineman said the issue of the bonus never came up during sale negotiations for War Emblem.

"In the agreement for the purchase, it was $900,000 and 10 percent, and they got to race him in their name and colors," said Reineman.

Reineman said he had not been in touch with representatives of The Thoroughbred Corp. concerning the issue of the bonus. He said he was awaiting word on how the bonus was to be distributed, but were he offered less than half, he said, "they'd have a lawsuit on their hands."

Apparently, the decision about how to distribute the bonus money lies with Sportsman's Park, but neither the track's explanation of the bonus in its stakes nomination form nor the language in an insurance policy on the bonus offers specific guidance on how to do it. Neither addresses the possibility of a horse being sold between the Illinois Derby and the Triple Crown.

Sportsman's purchased its insurance policy on the bonus, which was to be awarded to a horse who won the Illinois Derby and any Triple Crown race, for $55,000. The policy was brokered through Weinstein Jones and Associates, a Miami company that is the official insurer for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and is underwritten through Lloyd's of London.

Ray Jones, a partner at Weinstein Jones, said Lloyd's had 30 days after the completion of paperwork to issue a $1 million check to Sportsman's Park.

"Our position is our client is Sportsman's Park," Jones said. "We fund their promotion, and when this claim is paid, it will be paid to Sportsman's."

Sportsman's must then decide how to distribute the money. Charles Bidwill III, chairman of the National Jockey Club at Sportsman's, said initial interpretations by company lawyers of the language governing the bonus favored The Thoroughbred Corp. "It seems like the bonus follows the horse," Bidwill said.

For his part, Baffert has said he would split his share with Springer.

Reineman said half the bonus "would be a big help" to his struggling Thoroughbred and steel businesses. Reineman, who lives in suburban Chicago, is president of Crown Steel Sales in Chicago, a family business started by Reineman's brother, Howard, in 1938. Reineman said times have never been tougher for his steel company.

"The business has been very good to us until the last couple years," Reineman said. "That's one of the reasons I was willing to sell [War Emblem]."