Louis Wolfson, whose homebred Affirmed became the 11th and most recent Triple Crown winner, died the night of Dec. 30 at his Bal Harbour, Fla., home. He was 95 and had suffered from Alzheimer's disease in recent years.
Wolfson raced dozens of stakes winners, but none proved more special than Affirmed, whose Triple Crown battles with arch rival Alydar in 1978 continues to hold a special place in racing history. Their series of races that started at age 2 also helped jet start the career of teenager sensation Steve Cauthen.
Trained by Laz Barrera, Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) by 1 1/2 lengths over favored Alydar, then was a neck winner as the odds-on favorite in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). The upcoming Belmont Stakes (gr. I) proved to be one for the ages, as favored Affirmed held off Alydar to win by a head.
Affirmed proved special throughout his career. He was a champion at 2 through 4, and Horse of the Year at 3 and 4.
Wolfson was born Jan. 28, 1912, in St. Louis, Mo. A successful businessman in several endeavors, he also raced other champions Roman Brother, Raise a Native, Outstandingly, It's in the Air, and Flawlessly in the name of his Harbor View Farm. The last-named, a homebred two-time turf champion female, also ended up in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Like many owners, Wolfson found something special about campaigning homebreds. "It's a great feeling to own a champion, but it is not the same thing as racing one you have bred," he said after Affirmed's Belmont. "I spent 20 years of my life to get this one. I brought him into this world. I bred and raced his sire (Exclusive Native, by Raise a Native). I raised him at my farm."
Exclusive Native and Raise a Native (sire of Alydar) developed into major sires. Raise a Native's influence is still felt by virtue of his son, Mr. Prospector.
Wolfson's second wife, Patrice, came from one of racing's foremost families. Her father, trainer Hirsch Jacobs, is a Hall of Famer, and her brother, John, also was a conditioner. The Wolfsons also raced in partnership with Patrice's mother, Ethel.
Wolfson operated Harbor View Farm in Florida before selling it in 1977. He continued to breed and race in the Harbor View name and as recently as July was represented by a stakes winner as a breeder. Wolfson's sons, Gary and Steve, followed their father into racing. Another son, Marty, is a Florida-based trainer.
Louis Wolfson received Eclipse Awards as top owner in 1978-79 and best breeder in 1978. He was the leading breeder by money earned in 1970-71 and the top owner in earnings in 1978-80.