Fifth Third Bancorp's dispute with Zayat Stables LLC over a $34 million loan has come down to this: Your money or your horse.
Fifth Third, Ohio's biggest banking company, wants Zayat Stables to put up more cash or allow it to sell its equine collateral — bloodstock that includes Eskendereya, the 6-1 favorite to win this year's Kentucky Derby.
"He seems to have a big future," said bloodstock agent Baden "Buzz" Chace, who said the horse's value may climb to $20 million as the May 1 race nears. Eskendereya would not be a hard sell, since racing afficionados are "willing to pay a big price to get to the Derby," said Chace.
Fifth Third, based in Cincinnati, sued Zayat Stables in December, alleging that Zayat, which is run by the Egyptian-born businessman Ahmed Zayat, was in default on loans totaling $34.2 million because it missed a July payment. The stable filed for bankruptcy protection last month in an attempt to thwart the bank's suit.
The 203 horses that Zayat Stables in Hackensack, N.J., put up as collateral were valued at about $37 million in December, according to court records.
Ahmed Zayat did not return a call seeking comment. Fifth Third declined to comment.