Zayat says he will fight to keep horses
Thoroughbred owner Ahmed Zayat, whose 200-plus racehorse stable includes a top Kentucky Derby contender, said Wednesday he has a credible plan to prevent a bank from forcing him to sell his horses.
``This is a fair country and our justice system is fair,'' Zayat said in a telephone interview from his office in Teaneck, N.J. ``They are going to be crushed, crushed, crushed, crushed.''
Fifth Third Bank alleges in a lawsuit filed in December in U.S. District Court in Lexington that Zayat Stables defaulted on $34 million in loans. The stables are located in several states, including Kentucky, Florida, California and New York, Zayat said.
``It kills me, it hurts me, it is eating me alive,'' Zayat said. ``They are of only one mind ... have a fire sale.''
Zayat's stable includes top Kentucky Derby contender Eskendereya, who won the $250,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the colt also won his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream on Jan. 7 and is considered to be the distance horse Pletcher needs to break his 0 for 24 Derby record.
Last year's Kentucky Derby second-place finisher, Pioneerof the Nile, was also bred by Zayat Stables.
In 2008, Zayat Stables was the leading thoroughbred owner by earnings, winning almost $6.9 million. Late in 2009, Zayat was in third place with more than $6.2 million.
Messages left with Fifth Third Bank, headquartered in Cincinnati, were not immediately returned.
Zayat filed for bankruptcy protection on behalf of the stable Feb. 3 to block the bank's attempt to take over the business. A hearing is scheduled for March 8, when Zayat said he will reveal what he called a ``very credible plan.''
He said the stable's financial difficulties stem from the struggling thoroughbred industry, which is in a slump because of the sluggish world economy. Because there are ``no buyers, no market,'' he said, ``what do you do? You wait and you weather it out and you continue what you do until the markets normalize.''
He said he is willing to pay back the bank in full, ``just allow me the time.''