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Janell Cole, Published December 24 2008

Racing group pays legal fees in horse dispute

BISMARCK – The state Racing Commission has paid the $18,000 in legal fees it owed a Bismarck lawyer since early September.

Beth Baumstark said she received the check Friday.

The Racing Commission owed Baumstark the money after her clients, horse breeder Randy Schwartz of Dickinson and horse owner Melissa Peach of Belcourt, prevailed in a legal dispute over the registration of a race horse known as Major Splash Bac Jet.

The commission decertified the horse as “North Dakota-bred,” which prevented the owner from entering certain races in Belcourt and Fargo, and barred the breeder and owner from receiving breeders’ points that translated into annual financial awards from the commission.

After the case went to court, a new Racing Commission chairman, Pat Weir of Medora, sought to heal rifts with horsemen, and the commission voted in July to accede to Schwartz and Peach.

South Central District Judge Robert Wefald issued the order Sept. 4 stating the commission must pay $18,205 to reimburse Peach, Schwartz and Baumstark for legal fees and costs in the case.

Baumstark said Tuesday that from the money she received Friday, her law firm is now sending checks to Peach and Schwartz to reimburse them for fees they paid her.

Weir said Tuesday he’s glad it’s over.

“On behalf of the Racing Commission, we’re pleased that this matter has been satisfactorily resolved and we can focus our attention on other racing issues in 2009,” he said.

Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. She can be reached at (701) 224-0830 or forumcap@btinet.net