05/03/2006 11:00PM

Stonewall buys majority interest in Lawyer Ron


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A majority interest in Lawyer Ron, one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby, has been sold to Stonewall Stallions of central Kentucky, but the colt will race in the name and silks of his breeder and owner, the estate of James T. Hines Jr., in the 132nd Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Ron Bamberger, the executor of the Hines estate and the Owensboro attorney for whom the horse is named, held a media briefing to announce the sale Thursday afternoon. Bamberger and Mike Meuser, the attorney for Stonewall, who also was present at the briefing, declined to place a value on the sale, but several industry experts with some knowledge of the sale have estimated the overall value of the horse at roughly $6 million. Bamberger and Meuser also declined to say what percentage of interest was sold to Stonewall. For legal purposes, the new entity that has bought into the partnership includes interests from both Stonewall and the Hines estate and is being called Our Legal Team LLC.

Stonewall is owned by Richard and Audrey Haisfield, commercial real estate investors who moved from California to Kentucky in 2004 and launched their stallion business in February. According to Barry Irwin, the bloodstock agent representing Stonewall, the Haisfields did not attend the announcement "to allow the focus of this story to be on the family" of Hines, the Owensboro, Ky., businessman who died in an accidental drowning on Feb. 21.

Lawyer Ron, a Langfuhr colt out of a Lord Avie mare, is scheduled to break from post 17 under John McKee in the Derby. He enters off six straight wins, including a 2 3/4-length victory in the Arkansas Derby on April 15. He has won 7 of 14 starts and earned $1,220,008.

Irwin said both sides agreed that Lawyer Ron would compete in the name of both Stonewall and the Hines family after the Derby. Bob Holthus will be kept on as trainer, Irwin said.

Irwin, the founder of the Team Valor ownership syndicates, said he aggressively pursued the purchase of Lawyer Ron, who he said has a great stride.

After his racing career, Lawyer Ron will stand at stud at Stonewall, the former E.K. Gaylord property known as Gaillardia Farm near Midway, Ky. Stonewall stands six other stallions: Doneraile Court, Leroidesanimaux, Medaglia d'Oro, Value Plus, Marquetry, and Unforgettable Max.

It is unusual for a majority interest in a Derby contender to be sold so close to the race, although four years ago, The Thoroughbred Corp. purchased the eventual winner, War Emblem, from Russell Reineman for a reported $1 million about three weeks before the Derby. It is the only time in the modern era that a Derby winner was sold so close to the race.

There had been speculation about the possibility of a sale as the Hines estate continues to go through probate. Bamberger has said the family wants to downsize, and perhaps eventually liquidate, the sizable farm and racing operations that belonged to Hines.

- additional reporting by Glenye Cain