By Bill Finley
The Louisville Courier-Journal is reporting that Laoban (Uncle Mo)'s death last year resulted after the stallion was injected with a cocktail of vitamins and minerals they called the “Black Shot,” which was meant to increase his interest in breeding after he struggled to cover mares toward the end of the season.
The Courier-Journal based much of its reporting on insurance documents it obtained regarding the death of the stallion that stood at WinStar Farm. Part-owners Cypress Creek Equine and Southern Equine Stables filed suit last month in Fayette Circuit Court in an effort to have the insurance company, The North America Specialty Insurance Company (NAS), pay off a claim they submitted after the horse died.
In March, it was reported that Cypress Creek Equine, LLC was suing the insurance company for an undisclosed sum that includes mortality coverage, compensatory damages, court costs and attorney fees.
NAS has alleged that three of the four substances given to Laoban had been administered after their expiration date and that one of them had expired nearly nine years ago. The insurance company has charged that the “acts, errors and omissions” of attending veterinarian Dr. Heather Wharton were a matter of failing to provide proper care for the horse and that she took risks not covered in the policy.
“WinStar has been in the Thoroughbred business for over 20 years,” WinStar CEO and President Elliott Walden said in a statement to the paper. “Laoban's passing was a traumatic experience and felt by everyone at the farm. As we stated at the time, insurance companies in general have a self-serving interest in denying claims and blaming others. We resolved by mutual agreement any concerns that were brought to us and closed the chapter of this tragic loss a long time ago.”
Citing the insurance documents, the Courier-Journal reported that Laoban mounted three mares on May 22, 2021, but “failed to finish his job” and failed again the following day when matched with two more mares. He was treated with the shot the next day and, according to the insurance company, died within minutes of being given the injection. The incident was on videotape.
Laoban was eight at the time of his death. He entered stud in New York at Sequel Stallions for a fee of $7,500, but was relocated to WinStar based largely on the performance of his first crop to the races in 2020. That group included Simply Ravishing, the winner of the 2020 GI Darley Alcibiades S. He also sired Grade II winner and multiple Grade l-placed Keepmeinmind.
Sequel Stallions' owner Becky Thomas, who retained partial ownership of Laoban after WinStar became its syndicate manager in October 2020, told the Courier-Journal that the stallion's death was a “very unfortunate accident.” She confirmed she had settled with WinStar.
Laoban's stud fee was increased to $25,000 upon the move to WinStar. He sired 219 registered foals. He was bred to 126 mares in 2021.