The filly Crown and Anchor is scheduled to run in the seventh race at Laurel tomorrow under the new ownership of Gold-N-Oats Stable Inc.
But she is being permitted to compete only after the Maryland Racing Commission ruled yesterday that she is, indeed, the property of the New York-based claiming outfit.
The horse became the object of a legal entanglement after she was claimed for $12,000 by Gold-N-Oats stable out of a winning race on Thanksgiving Day.
At first, the stewards voided the claim because they thought there was a discrepancy on the claim slip.
Owner Marisa Anne Lizza had signed the slip, but listed her outfit as Gold-N-Oats Stable.
Not the correct name, the stewards said after consulting with the horsemen's bookkeeper. The outfit is simply listed as Gold-N-Oats in their records. Adding the word "Stable" voided the claim.
So after Crown and Anchor won the race by 5 1/2 lengths, earning $5,700, she went back to her old barn at Bowie with her trainer, Oscar "Biscuit" Williams.
The next morning Gold-N-Oats trainer John Lenzini Sr. complained to the stewards. The officials then consulted ownership records at the commission's Baltimore office, found that the stable was officially licensed as Gold-N-Oats Stable Inc., and reinstated the claim.
A day later Crown and Anchor was transferred to Lenzini's Laurel barn.
That's when her previous owners, Robert Kainu of Crofton and two partners, known as the Box Alarm Stable II, cried foul.
Kainu's attorney, Dan Palumbo, argued before the commission that since Lizza left "Inc." off the end of the stable name, the claim application was invalid.
"What you are doing is treading on a slippery slope," Palumbo told the commissioners. "A claim is an irrevocable transfer of property and if you allow this claim, you are turning it into an option to purchase a horse. Since the claim was originally voided at the time of the race, it was my clients who took the risk that the horse could be injured during that race."
However, the commission unanimously upheld the stewards' decision to reinstate the transaction, saying that leaving "Inc." off the claim slip was only "a minor technicality."
"There was no question that the person [Lizza] who signed the claim slip represented the Gold-N-Oats Stable," said John M. Mosner Jr., the commission chairman. "There was no attempt to defraud anybody. Any reasonable person can see that. I don't think we are going to have a million frivolous claims appeals because of this."
But Palumbo still sees it differently. "This is going to open a
Pandora's box," he said. "Savvy owners and trainers will now have a loophole to have claims voided if they want to."
Palumbo said his clients could seek an injunction to prevent Crown and Anchor from running tomorrow.
"If it was a $100,000 horse, we'd be out there doing just that," Palumbo said. "But because of the economics of this case, I'm not sure what we are going to do."
There have been many instances where similar idiosyncrasies have resulted in voided claims.
Country Life Farm owner Joseph P. Pons Jr. recalls an instance last year when he was told a $35,000 claim for his 2-year-old colt, Allez Prospect, had been voided.
"The people who wanted to claim the horse spelled 'Allez' wrong on the claim slip. His name on the slip didn't match up with his name on the Jockey Club foal papers," Pons said.
Because of the misspelling, the claim was voided. Pons said the horse was eventually claimed from him for $5,000.
"I think I'm going to leave a French-English dictionary outside the claim booth," he said.