Borell Sues McIngvales For Breach Of Contract, Defamation

by | 11.10.2015 | 2:31pm
Maria Borell (second from left), following Runhappy's Breeders' Cup Sprint victory

Maria Borell has filed a lawsuit against Gallery Racing Stables LLC and owners James and Linda McIngvale for breach of contract and defamation in the aftermath of Borell being fired by the McIngvales as trainer of Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Runhappy.

The suit, filed in Fayette Circuit Court on Monday, also names Breeders' Cup Limited and Keeneland Association as third-party defendants holding funds to which Borell claims she is entitled.

Borell, 32, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., has been a licensed trainer since 2013 but quickly rose to prominence after Runhappy's victory in late August in the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes at Keeneland and subsequent victories in the Grade 3 Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Keeneland Oct. 31. She was fired the day after the Breeders' Cup by Laura Wohlers, the McIngvales' racing manager and Runhappy's former trainer. Wohlers is Linda McIngvale's twin sister.

In the complaint, which only tells the plaintiff's side of the story, Borell said she was hired “in or around April 2015” as Gallery Racing's trainer with the “understanding that she would be paid according to the industry standard for Thoroughbred horse trainers, i.e., $1,000 per week, 10 percent of Gallery Racing's share of purses won by horses trained by Ms. Borell, 10 percent of any amounts received by Gallery Racing for horses trained by Ms. Borell that subsequently won claiming races and one lifetime breeding right for each Grade 1 win by a horse trained by Ms. Borell.”

The complaint states Borell “has confirmed that other trainers previously hired and utilized by Gallery Racing received compensation according to this industry standard, including in particular the 10 percent of the owner's share of race winnings.”

Specifically, Borell is seeking $117,752, equal to 10 percent of purse monies won by Runhappy and a second Gallery Racing horse Triplehott, plus $5,000, equal to 10 percent of the $50,000 claiming price Gallery Racing received for Triplehott. The complaint also states that Borell is entitled to two lifetime breeding rights for Runhappy's two Grade 1 victories in the King's Bishop and Breeders' Cup Sprint while under her care.

Borell is suing both James and Linda McIngvale of Houston, Texas, for defamation for statements made by them in a Nov. 4 article published in the Paulick Report. The complaint alleges Borell was “subjected to numerous false, libelous, defamatory and damaging statements” by the McIngvales. “…Mr. McIngvale and Mrs. McIngvale have each published and thereby wrongfully and erroneously imputed dishonesty, incompetence, a lack of knowledge and concern for the well-being of horses and a lack of knowledge and competence as a trainer to Ms. Borell. As a direct and proximate result of such false and defamatory statements, Ms. Borell's professional reputation has suffered and continues to suffer damage as a result of Mr. and Mrs. McIngvale's libelous and defamatory statements published in the Paulick Report and other Thoroughbred industry publications.”

Borell is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, in addition to the aforementioned compensation. She is asking for a jury trial on all seven counts of the complaint.

Keeneland and Breeders' Cup have filed a response to the complaint asking for dismissal, citing rules of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that require only jockey fees be deducted from an owner's purse account. A hearing has been scheduled for Friday on the motion to dismiss.

Borell is being represented by Lexington attorneys Richard Getty, Danielle Brown and Matthew English. Houston attorney Monica Orlando, representing the McIngvales and Gallery Racing, could not be immediately reached for comment on the suit.

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