Lord Avie, the champion 2-year-old male of 1980, died Dec. 28 at Blue Ridge Farm near Upperville, Va., according to Lane's End Farm. Thoroughbred racing's oldest living Eclipse Award winner at age 34, he passed away peacefully from natural causes.
The son of Lord Gaylord captivated fans for decades, from his racing campaign to his successful stud career spent mainly at Lane's End, on into retirement. Bred in Kentucky by Viking Farms out of the Gallant Man mare Avie, he was selected by Daniel Perlsweig at the 1980 sale of 2-year-olds in training at Hialeah Park and was a $37,000 purchase from the consignment of Clay Camp.
"He was the horse of a lifetime for me," said Perlsweig, 85. "He gave me a lot of pleasure and opened many doors for me and my family."
Trained by Perlsweig, Lord Avie raced for SKS Stable, founded in 1978. He was one of the first high-profile horses to campaign for a partnership group.
"At times in the winner's circle, it seems as if everyone but the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has a piece of the colt," legendary sportswriter Bill Leggett penned in a 1981 feature on Lord Avie, who was then the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
"SKS is a claiming stable, not the kind of outfit noted for Triple Crown candidates," Leggett went on. "Two of Lord Avie's owners are from Miami and the other 10 are New Jerseyites. In October 1978 Mike Kay, a New York racing fan who had moved to Florida, persuaded his cousin, David Simon, to join him in a horse-racing lark...the stable's roster of owners (grew) considerably and included Simon's mother, Rita Sosower, Kay's brother-in-law, Michael Streit, Kay's mother, Edythe, and a family friend, Mort Leiwant. Leiwant is in roofing supplies, and is also involved with Simon, Streit, and Kay in Prime Motors. Edythe Kay is a housewife who also runs a beauty salon. Only in America."
Lord Avie went on to a dynamite juvenile campaign, notching back-to-back grade I wins in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park and the Young America Stakes at the Meadowlands, along with victories in the Cowdin Stakes (gr. II) and Juvenile Stakes at Belmont. That year he also ran second in the Sapling (gr. I) at Monmouth Park, was second in the Hopeful (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course, second in the Arlington Washington Futurity (gr. I) at Arlington Park, and third in the Tremont at Belmont.
In 1981 the colt kicked off the season with a victory in the Hutcheson Stakes, ran third in the Fountain of Youth (gr. III), and came back to take the Florida Derby (gr. I), all at Gulfstream Park. He was sidelined with an injured suspensory, however, and missed his Derby bid. After sitting out the Triple Crown season he won a Monmouth allowance, then finished second in the Haskell Invitational to Five Star Flight and third in the Travers (gr. I) won by Willow Hour. That Saratoga classic would be his final start; he was retired after the old injury flared up again in the fall. He retired with earnings of $705,977.
Lord Avie was syndicated for $10 million and first stood at Spendthrift Farm, but spent the majority of his career as a stallion at Lane's End until he was retired from breeding in 2002. He was the sire of 2007 Pattison Canadian International (Can-I) winner Cloudy's Knight, 2000 E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-I) winner Fly for Avie, and 1991 Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) victress Magical Maiden, among others.
His progeny also excelled in multiple nations, with Ode a group II winner in France, Pigricia the champion grass mare in Peru in 2002, and Dr Abraham, the 1995 champion imported colt in Puerto Rico. He produced at least 74 blacktype winners.
Lord Avie spent retirement at historic Blue Ridge in the company of his 21-year-old graded stakes winning son, Boyce. He was visited at least once every year by Perlsweig, who last saw him in April.