Legal claim hits Ellen Whitaker and Locarno

  • An attempt has been made to prevent show jumper Ellen Whitaker from competing her top ride, Locarno, in a legal dispute over the horse’s ownership status.

    A High Court claim, demanding damages in excess of £1.5m and involving 13 horses in total, seeks to prevent Locarno being competed.

    The claim was filed on 17 March against Ellen and her father/trainer Steven Whitaker by a business associate, Julian Jonathan Donn.

    A copy of it, obtained by H&H, reveals Mr Donn is demanding the return of 13 horses, plus “damages for their detention”.

    Pending their delivery, Mr Donn wants an injunction stopping the Whitakers “transporting the horses Locarno or Lancelot to any show or using the same for the purpose of show jumping”.

    The claim further seeks to restrain Steven Whitaker from “dealing with, parting with possession or disposing of” all 13 horses or “doing any acts in relation to them save for their proper preservation and maintenance”.

    In a list of nine points headed “Brief details of claim”, Mr Donn wants a declaration that he is the owner of all semen obtained from the stallions involved.

    The claim also seeks a declaration that the two men are joint-owners of the mare Hotline, and an order that she be sold and the net price divided between them after payment of the first 7,000 to Mr Donn. Finally, in relation to the horse Mickey, Mr Donn is seeking payment of £65,000.

    Spectators at last week’s British Open Championships in Sheffield were surprised not to see Ellen riding Locarno, a nine-year-old Holsteiner stallion she partnered on five senior Nations Cup teams last year and with whom she was a member of Britain’s European Championships squad.

    On the advice of their solicitor, neither Ellen nor her father would comment on the underlying reason for the horse’s absence.

    In 2001, H&H reported Locarno’s sale at the Paul Schockemöhle sale in Germany to the Amara Stud and Steven Whitaker International for 1million (£622,000 at the time).

    On her website, Ellen states: “Larry [Locarno] was bought for me as a five-year-old by Mr Julian Donn from Paul Schockemöhle in 2001. I never imagined I would be lucky enough to have a great chance like this given to me at such an early stage in my career. I am extremely grateful to Julian for his generosity and support.”

    As H&H went to press on Monday 10 April, Mr Donn’s claim had been acknowledged on behalf of the Whitakers by legal firm Walker Morris (4 April), but no defence had been filed, leaving a question mark over whether the case will go to trial or settle out of court.

    Ben Mansford, of Walker Morris, declined to make any comment, as did Mr Donn’s solicitor, Howard Pinkerfield of Pinkerfield Solicitors.

  • Read this story in full in today’s Horse & Hound (13 April, ’06)
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