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American Pharoah owner Ahmed Zayat to fight defamation suit

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Ahmed Zayat, the owner of American Pharoah, is set to fight a lawsuit as his horse takes aim at finishing the Triple Crown by winning the Belmont Stakes.Elsa/Getty Images

Ahmed Zayat, the owner of American Pharoah, is set to fight a lawsuit as his horse takes aim at finishing the Triple Crown by winning the Belmont Stakes.

American Pharoah owner Ahmed Zayat took aim at a lawsuit filed against him just days before his star colt is scheduled to make a run for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes — this one by the lawyer for the man who sued Zayat in 2014, claiming that Zayat is delinquent on paying a $ 1.6 million gambling debt.

Joe Bainton — the attorney who represents Howard Rubinsky, the plaintiff in the original lawsuit — filed a $ 10 million libel suit against Zayat in U.S. District Court in New Jersey Monday. Bainton, whose publicist sent a copy of the complaint to the media, argues in the court papers that Zayat defamed him when the American Pharoah owner blasted the Rubinsky suit in several news reports, including one in the Daily News.

Zayat’s lawyer, Joseph Vann, issued a statement on behalf of Zayat, defiantly denouncing the suit and vowing to fight back.

“We believe the lawsuit filed against our client today has no legal merit, we expect‎ it will be thrown out by the court, and our client intends to file a malicious prosecution action after we prevail if warranted,” Vann said.

Bainton claimed The News, the Daily Mail and the Observer.com repeated Zayat’s allegedly defamatory comments he says were aimed at him, although Zayat’s comments appeared to be made at Rubinsky, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to participating in an illegal bookmaking ring and is a convicted felon.

“I’ve been practicing law a long time and I don’t take very kindly to being called a criminal. I would suspect that other lawyers similarly situated feel pretty much the same way,” Bainton told The News Monday. “I said pretty much all there is to say in the complaint.”

Zayat has asked a federal judge in New Jersey to dismiss the Rubinsky suit, which was filed in March 2014 in the same U.S. District Court in New Jersey as the Bainton complaint, and federal judge William Martini is expected to rule on the matter in the near future. Rubinsky filed the breach-of-contract suit last year and claims that he arranged for Zayat to receive a line of credit at an offshore online casino in 2003 and that Zayat lost $ 2 million making sports bets.

Attorneys for Zayat have filed for summary judgment, and argue that Rubinsky has produced no proof of his claims and that the alleged breach of contract occurred so long ago and is outside any enforceable statute of limitations.

Zayat told The News last month that he never bet through an offshore, online casino. Zayat also told the Daily News that he has never bet on any other sport than horse racing.

American Pharoah, which won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, will attempt to make history Saturday at Belmont. The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978.

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