03/24/2004 1:00AM

Russell Reineman, owner of War Emblem, dead

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Thoroughbred owner and breeder Russell Reineman, whose stable included such standouts as 2002 Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem and multiple Grade 1 winner Wise Times, died in Chicago Tuesday night. He was 86.

Reineman, the owner of Crown Steel Sales in Chicago, maintained a band of about 35 broodmares in Kentucky with Charles Nuckols Jr. Reineman and Nuckols joined forces in 1960 and had a long and successful partnership that produced such good runners as Smart Deb, champion juvenile filly of 1962, and War Emblem, champion 3-year-old of 2002. Reineman raced the horses bred from his mares, but he leased the mares to Nuckols, making Nuckols the breeder of record for some of Reineman's best runners.

"Charlie does all the matings, selects the stallions, takes the mares to the stallions," Reineman said in 2002 after War Emblem, with Nuckols as breeder, won the Derby. "How can I take credit for breeding the horses when he's the one who has earned it?"

Reineman was leading owner at Arlington in 1979 and 1980. But he also enjoyed major successes on other circuits. Reineman's important runners included Wise Times, winner of the 1986 Travers, Haskell, and Super Derby, all Grade 1 events; 1990 Super Derby winner Home at Last; 1980 American Derby winner Hurry Up Blue; and Grade 2 winners Sweetest Chant and Powerful Punch. Another of Reineman's stakes winners, Distorted Humor, gave him another Derby connection: Distorted Humor, now a stallion at WinStar Farm in Kentucky, sired 2003 winner Funny Cide.

But Reineman was best known in recent years for his association with War Emblem. Reineman owned the colt's dam, Sweetest Lady, and leased her, as was his custom, to Nuckols. The men had planned to sell War Emblem, but Reineman bought him back for $20,000 at the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale and raced him instead. He retained sole ownership until after the colt's victory in the Illinois Derby in April 2002, when Reineman sold a 90-percent interest in War Emblem to Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corp. for $900,000.

Reineman later said he was entitled to at least half of a $1 million bonus the colt earned by winning the Illinois Derby and Kentucky Derby. Salman disputed the claim. Reineman and The Thoroughbred Corp. finally settled the lawsuit in January of 2003, seven months after Salman's death. Under the settlement, Reineman received $315,000 of the bonus, and The Thoroughbred Corp. received the rest.

Survivors include one daughter, Lynne McCutcheon, and five grandchildren. Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Hursen Funeral Home in Hillside, Ill. Visitation will be 3-9 p.m. on Friday.