Ciaron Maher to fight $20 million Azkadellia lawsuit

Ciaron Maher to fight $20 million Azkadellia lawsuit

Leading trainer Ciaron Maher has vowed to “vigorously” fight a $20 million lawsuit filed against him in the Queensland Supreme Court on Monday by a man claiming to be the real owner of suspended star mare Azkadellia.

William Edward Duffy is seeking an estimated $8.5 million in lost winnings over the three years that the horse has been banned from racing and a further $11.5 million in damages for a breach of agreement. As part of the claim, he has accused Maher of being the mastermind behind the long-running ownership deception.

William Edward Duffy is seeking an estimated $8.5 million in lost winnings over the three years that the horse has been banned from racing and a further $11.5 million in damages for a breach of agreement. As part of the claim, he has accused Maher of being the mastermind behind the long-running ownership deception.

Azkadellia was originally suspended because of suspicions over her true ownership. At the time she was said to be owned by Arabella Foster, niece of convicted con man Peter Foster. Duffy has alleged he bought the mare but raced her under the name of Ben Connolly, who was trainer Ciaron Maher’s former racing manager.

But Maher, who was suspended and fined in 2017 for conduct prejudicial to racing’s image over his role in the scandal, says he has not yet been served the writ and will “vigorously” fight the “false civil claims”.

Documents seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald show that Azkadellia is owned by a trust, which is owned by another trust, of which Duffy is the sole beneficiary. The trust has owned Azkadellia and four other horses since September 2015.

Matthew Drain, chief operating officer of Ciaron Maher Racing, said Maher would defend himself against all claims.

“We will be vigorously fighting the false civil claims made against us today in the Brisbane Supreme Court,” Drain said.

“I would like to say they have not been served on anyone nor have they been issued by a law firm.

“Racing Victoria dealt with the matter surrounding Azkadellia’s ownership two years ago. Ciaron served his six-month ban and when he returned, put in place a management structure so he could concentrate on what he does best, training winning horses.”

In the statement of claim filed on Monday morning, seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Duffy claims: “The second defendant [Maher] advised the second plaintiff [Duffy] to put the horses in a trust under the control of Ben Connolly, a friend of the second defendant and not to put the horses in his own name.

“Despite knowing the true circumstances of the ownership of the horses and that they were owned by the second plaintiff, the second defendant claimed to have no knowledge of the ownership of the horses in seeking to minimise his own exposure to any charges by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board.

“As a result of the allegations and ensuing investigation, the horses were suspended from racing.”

Azkadellia was sold by lawyer John Gdanski on behalf of Maher at an Echuca sale yard auction last Thursday for $615,000 – below her insured price of $1 million – under the Agistment Act. Duffy claimed to have no knowledge of the sale.

Under the Agistment Act (also known as the Livestock Act), a landowner may recoup money owed to them by an owner who has not paid fees for keeping their horse on that land.

Maher, who was seeking $471,360 in unpaid agistment costs and legal fees by the trust through VCAT in a separate legal proceeding, had been looking after Azkadellia since her suspension.

1 Comment

  • Francesca Chistie
    October 1, 2019

    Seriously… I cannot believe this is in print or being considered with easy access knowledge of Duffy’s passed . He is nothing but a criminal,

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