Testimony on day four in the lawsuit filed in Fayette County Circuit Court by the owners of Summer Wind Farm over the $2.1-million sale of Love Me Only at the 2011 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale focused primarily on the omission from the sale catalogue of an early season mating to now-pensioned Danehill Dancer.
Love Me Only was sold in-foal to European Horse of the Year Sea the Stars on a May 3 cover, but neither the sale catalogue nor the internal records of Eaton Sales, the consignor that sold her for a Coolmore Stud partnership, had information on a failed February mating to Danehill Dancer.
Several key employees of Coolmore and its Kentucky farm, Ashford Stud, testified on the subject. All said the omission was accidental, and one of them, the global operation's chief financial officer, Clem Murphy, said the omitted breeding was “irrelevant” and “immaterial.”
Murphy said the owners of Love Me Only (Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor) intended to breed to Sea the Stars since the autumn of 2010, when the half-sister by Sadler's Wells to leading sire Giant's Causeway was injured in training before making her first start. Sea the Stars entered stud at the Aga Khan's Gilltown Stud in 2010.
However, at the beginning of the 2011 breeding season, Love Me Only's owners decided to breed her once to Coolmore's own stallion, Danehill Dancer, whose fertility had been declining in recent years. When that mating didn't take, they went back to the original plan, but apparently were unable to get to Sea the Stars until early May.
“We don't own Sea the Stars. You can't just ring up and say, 'We want to breed today,'” said Murphy. “There's a queue, there's a wait.”
Murphy said the failed early-season mating to Danehill Dancer was not meaningful because Love Me Only was a young mare and Danehill Dancer a subfertile stallion. That year, Danehill Dancer produced about 50 life foals from 150 mares bred, Murphy said.
The omission occurred when Aisling Cross Duignan, director of sales at Ashford Stud, entered Love Me Only in both Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland's November breeding stock sales. She testified that she called Coolmore in Ireland to get Love Me Only's last cover date and was told only of the Sea the Stars cover. “At the time, I was unaware of the (Danehill Dancer mating),” she said.
Cross Duignan said it was rare for Coolmore to sell mares in the U.S. that were carrying foals from European stallions and that the mating information was not online as it would be for a U.S.-based stallion.
She was asked by an attorney for the plaintiffs whether she would have listed the Danehill Dancer breeding if she had known about it.
“Of course I would,” Cross Duignan said.
Murphy said many sale companies, unlike Keeneland, only list the most recent covering sire on a catalogue page. He insisted the Lyons “got what they paid for” –Love Me Only and her foal by Sea the Stars.
Her Sea the Stars foal, a colt named Storm the Stars, finished second, beaten a neck, in a Newmarket maiden race earlier this month. You'resothrilling, a half sister to Love Me Only, has had her first two foals of racing age, Marvellous (a 3-year-old Galileo filly) and Gleneagles (a 2-year-old Galileo colt) win Group 1 races.
Love Me Only has a yearling colt by Distorted Humor and is in foal to Smart Strike.
The Lyons filed a lawsuit about two months after they purchased Love Me Only, alleging they were defrauded because of the omitted breeding to Danehill Dancer and because they allege Love Me Only had been medicated to mask lameness while she was on the Keeneland sale grounds. Veterinarians for the Lyons diagnosed her with laminitis several days after she arrived at Summer Wind Farm in Georgetown, Ky. The three owners of Love Me Only, plus Ashford Stud and consignor Eaton Sales were named as defendants in the suit.
The jury trial continues on Monday.
Correction: An early version of this article incorrectly said the Aga Khan raced Sea the Stars. The European Horse of the Year was owned by the David Tsui family, whose Sunderland Holdings was breeder.
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