06/06/2007 12:00AM

Whiteley part of suit filed over 'Ruffian'


Trainer Frank Whiteley, jockey Jacinto Vasquez, and a company holding a trademark to the name "Ruffian" have filed a lawsuit against the Walt Disney Companies and several of its television subsidiaries, alleging that the companies infringed on the trademark and plan to portray inaccurately the events of Ruffian's life in a movie scheduled to air on Saturday.

The suit, filed Monday in United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, seeks an injunction against the companies from broadcasting the movie, which is scheduled to air Saturday night on ABC after the Belmont Stakes. ABC is owned by Walt Disney, as is ESPN Productions, which produced the film. The lawsuit also seeks monetary damages of $10 million.

Whiteley trained Ruffian, and Vasquez rode the filly in 9 of her 11 races. Ruffian was undefeated until she suffered a fatal injury during a match race at Belmont Park on July 6, 1975. The trademark to the name "Ruffian" is held by a company called Thoroughbred Legends LLC, which, according to the suit, owns the trademarks to eight horse names. Whiteley and Vazquez both are part-owners of the "Ruffian" mark.

The suit claims that the movie's producers did not obtain the rights to use Ruffian's name, and that the movie cannot represent a true story about the filly's life and death because the producers did not use information obtained directly from Whiteley and Vasquez.

In a statement released by ESPN, the network said, "The claims of the lawsuit are without merit."