Horse trainer lawsuit alleges breach of contract

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It appears the relationship between two well-known Flathead Valley horsemen has soured after one sued the other in an apparent business disagreement.

Ike Green, the trainer of Bolt d’Oro, a horse that ran in the 2018 Kentucky Derby and is owned by Flathead Valley developer Mick Ruis Sr., is suing Ruis for wrongful termination and breach of contract for not keeping his end of a deal to pay Green a percentage of winnings and to breed one of the stallions he trained.

The documents, filed earlier this year in Flathead County District Court by the Murphy Law Firm of Great Falls, reveal a broken business relationship between two men who were feted in various publications for the unlikely partnership that resulted in the horse running in the Derby, the world’s most prestigious race.

Green’s lawsuit asserts that Ruis hired him to manage and operate his ranch in Bigfork. Green worked as ranch manager for Ruis Ranch from 2016 to 2018. The agreement specified that Green would be paid $70,000 per year plus housing and fringe benefits.

It also asserts that both men entered into a separate agreement that Green would provide his expertise to select, purchase and train stallions in exchange for a 1% share of the winnings and one breeding right per year, per stallion.

In the suit, Green said he worked diligently for Ruis managing his ranch, selecting and training horses. Green said through his efforts and expertise, several profitable horses were acquired on behalf of Ruis and Ruis Racing, including Bolt d’Oro.

Further, in the suit, Green said he injured his right leg Sept. 24, 2017, in the course and scope of employment for the ranch. Green alleges that after his injury, Ruis refused to honor the agreement of paying Green the agreed-upon 1% of the race winnings or giving him one breeding right to the stallions he selected and trained.

Then Green alleges that on June 20, 2018, Ruis informed Green that his employment with Ruis Ranch and his contract with Ruis Racing was concluded without proper notice and without good cause. Green also claims Ruis improperly evicted him from his employee housing.

Green said in the suit that because of the actions he incurred he will continue to incur damages. Green also maintains he met or exceeded the work expectations for Ruis and Ruis Ranch.

Nonetheless, Green said he was terminated shortly after his injury and alleges that Ruis tried to get out of his obligations, according to the suit.

In a court filing dated Sept. 27, Ruis, through his attorney, the Frampton Purdy Law Firm of Whitefish, asserted that the lawsuit be dismissed or that Green be awarded nothing.

Ruis said in the court filing that he only employed Green in an employer-employee relationship, not in a contractual relationship. He also argues that any contract Green claims existed is void as invalid or enforceable and any contract that is valid or enforceable was properly terminated.

Ruis also said in the suit that Green was paid compensation, which included bonuses at the discretion of the employer.

The next hearing in the case is a scheduling conference in Judge Amy Eddy’s chambers Friday, Nov. 15.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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