Italian pair probed for selling champion horse's sperm

(FILES) Italian jockey Giampaulo Minucci celebrates his victory as he drives trotter 'Varenne' during the Prix D'Amerique legend race at Vincennes racetrack, outside <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Paris;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Paris</a>, on January 27, 2002. (Jacques DEMARTHON)

Two men are under investigation in Italy accused of illegally selling semen from trotting champion Varenne, one of their lawyers told AFP Tuesday.

They are Walter Ferrero, the head of Varenne Forever, the company managin the stallion's breeding, and Roberto Brischetto, head of the stud farm where Varenne is in retirement near Turin.

They are suspected of having sold samples of semen from Varenne -- who won the Prix d'Amerique in 2001 and 2002 -- to breeders without alerting the horse's owner.

Prosecutors in Turin have closed the investigation and a judge must now rule on whether the case goes to trial.

"We are relaxed," Ferrero's lawyer, Enrico Calabrese, told AFP.

According to the La Stampa newspaper, the pair have since 2018 provided the stallion with "thousands of illegitimate sons".

In 2018 alone, they were said to have made 200,000 euros ($217,00).

The two men allegedly presented themselves as the owners of the stallion to sign contracts directly with breeders, at the expense of the real owner, Varenne Futurity.

Varenne, now 29 years old, retired in 2002.