$2.1 Million Mare at Center of Lawsuit Over Sale

by | 06.04.2013 | 12:45pm
Love Me Only was carrying Storm The Stars at the time of her $2.1 million purchase at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale

A pregnant mare who sold for $2.1 million at the 2011 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale is at the center of a dispute over whether her owners and consignor were aware that she may have had laminitis when she entered the sale ring.

The mare, then-3-year-old Love Me Only, is a half-sister to the European Horse of the Year and successful sire Giant's Causeway. Unraced, she was sold in-foal to European Horse of the Year Sea the Stars.

Frank and Jane Lyon of Summer Wind Farm in Georgetown, Ky., bought Love Me Only from Reiley McDonald's Eaton Sales, which consigned her on behalf of a group of owners affiliated with Coolmore, the global racing and breeding operation that owns Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., where Love Me Only was stationed for about six weeks prior to the sale. She shipped to the United States from Ireland.

According to the complaint filed in Kentucky's Fayette Circuit Court Jan. 27, 2012, Love Me Only was transported from Keeneland to Summer Wind Farm on Nov. 9, the day after she sold, then “on or about Nov. 10 and 11, 2011, began to exhibit physical problems and was very sore.”

On the morning of Nov. 11, Dr. Scott Morrison, head of the podiatry department at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, examined and radiographed Love Me Only and consulted with Summer Wind's regular veterinarian, Dr. Scott Pierce. The following day, Pierce issued a report stating “X-rays and clinical signs indicated chronic laminitis.” On Nov. 14 the complaint says, a second veterinary report, from Dr. Bryan Fraley said Love Me Only “had an acute episode of laminitis in which (her) coffin bone had significantly sunk.” Fraley's report expressed “concern about the longevity of Love Me Only as a broodmare.”

That same day, Summer Wind verbally notified Keeneland it intended to reject the purchase of Love Me Only, and on Nov. 15 confirmed that with a letter to director of sales Geoffrey Russell.

Keeneland advised Summer Wind on Nov. 17 it would not rescind the sale. According to the Conditions of Sale, published in Keeneland catalogues, buyers must state their intention to reject a sale based on a published limited warranty within 48 hours after the session in which the horse is sold and before it leaves the sale grounds.

In the meantime, Summer Wind learned through Eaton Sales principal McDonald that Love Me Only had been administered Butazolidin five times between Nov. 5- 8. A blood sample from Love Me Only was sent to the University of California-Davis testing laboratory by Summer Wind and a letter to Pierce said the test confirmed “large quantities of Bute,” the complaint says.

According to Keeneland's Medication Policy, as many as two non-steroidal anti- inflammatories may be administered to sale horses. There is no requirement for disclosure.

The suit, among other things, claims that Eaton Sales and Love Me Only's owners, through this administration of Bute, violated the Ninth Term of the Conditions of Sale that prohibit, in part: “Any invasive practice which intentionally conceals a material defect or chronic lameness.”

Summer Wind is charging fraud by misrepresentation and omission, fraudulent concealment, breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In the complaint, Summer Wind claims Jane Lyon and farm manager Mark Moloney asked an employee of Eaton Sales if there was “anything wrong” with Love Me Only and if the mare had any “history of medical issues.” The complaint says they were told Love Me Not “had no issues.”

The suit originally named Bemak (a foreign LLC doing business as Ashford Stud) and Eaton Sales, agent, as defendants. Documents filed with the court show that the owners of the mare at the time of the sale were Orpendale (45%), Chelston Ireland (45%) and Wynatt (10%), all of whom have been added as defendants in an amended complaint.

A series of responses and interrogatories between attorneys for the parties (William Hoskins of Jackson Kelly on behalf of Summer Wind and Barry Hunter of Frost Brown Todd for the defendants) indicate that Love Me Only was subsequently inspected on behalf of the defendants by Dr. Ric Redden and found to be “perfectly sound.” Defendants claim veterinary records prior to the sale demonstrate the absence of laminitis. The mare delivered a 2012 Sea the Stars foal, inspected on behalf of the defendants by Dr. Ben Stivers and found to be healthy. She was bred back to Distorted Humor.

Defendants say Love Me Only was shipped barefoot from Ashford Stud to the Keeneland sale grounds Nov. 4, 2011, where she was shod by Steve Norman. According to a statement from Reiley McDonald, he informed Coolmore/Ashford representative Paul Shanahan the mare was administered Bute after becoming “foot sore having been shown hundreds of times” and was “slightly off on her turn.” The mare was not inspected by a veterinarian representing Summer Wind prior to entering the sale ring.

The plaintiffs, who request a jury trial, are seeking rejection of the purchase, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney's costs. Depositions and further discovery in this case are pending. No trial date has been set.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the deadline for notification  to rescind a sale under Keeneland's Condition of Sales. It is 48 hours from the end of a session in which the horse is sold.

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