Lord Avie, the 2-year-old male champion of 1980 who at 34 years old was horse racing's oldest living Eclipse Award winner, died Friday afternoon at Blue Ridge Farm in Upperville, Va., from the infirmities of old age.
The son of Lord Gaylord was pensioned from active stallion duty at Lane's End Farm in Kentucky in 2002 and lived out his days at the historic Virginia farm with other pensioners, including his 21-year-old graded stakes winning son, Boyce. Miner's Mark, the first foal out of unbeaten champion Personal Ensign, also resides there.
“He quit eating the last few days,” said Daniel Perlsweig, who picked Lord Avie out of Virginian Clay Camp's consignment of 2-year-olds in training and conditioned him for SKS Stable. “He laid down in his paddock yesterday, and there was really nothing they could do.”
“He was just a great horse – never sick, never lame, just a really solid guy,” said Patricia Ramey, who took care of Lord Avie at Blue Ridge Farm. “He was a real horse: good blood and good bone, not one of these ultra-sensitive, inbred Thoroughbreds you see so often today. And he had a huge heart and loved every day of his life. That horse was so happy. He didn't have many teeth, but he always ate his food, cleaned it up every day. Then Christmas night he quit eating.
“The sun was shining bright in his paddock yesterday, and his son Boyce came over to the fence as we were saying goodbye to him. He just came running over. I'm just glad (Lord Avie) didn't suffer at the end.”
“Patty took such good care of him,” said Perlsweig, who last saw Lord Avie in April while driving from the northeast to his Florida home.
Lord Avie won eight of 16 starts, including five of 10 during a 2-year-old campaign that included Grade 1 victories in the Champagne at Belmont Park and Young America Stakes at Meadowlands. He won the Hutcheson and G1 Florida Derby and 3 and was an early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but was sidelined by a suspensory injury. He came back after the Triple Crown, placing in the G1 Haskell and Travers, but a recurrence of the injury forced his retirement that fall.
Originally syndicated for $10 million, Lord Avie entered stud at Spendthrift Farm in 1982. He was later moved to Lane's End Farm, where he had a long and productive career until being retired from breeding in 2002. Among his offspring was the top-class international turf horse Ode, G1 winners Magical Maiden and Fly for Avie, and at least 74 stakes winners.
“Someone once said to me that if he could only breed to one stallion for consistency, it would be Lord Avie,” said William Farish Jr. of Lane's End. “He was a very, very useful sire.”
Perlsweig said he fell in love with Lord Avie when he first saw the colt in training with Clay Camp at Payson Park before the 1980 sale of 2-year-olds in training at Hialeah Park. “That was back when they just galloped the horses before the sale,” he said. “I had another Lord Gaylord at the time, named Georgeandthedragon, that I won a couple stakes with, so that's what got me interested in him. But as soon as I saw him, I loved him.”
Perlsweig recalled when he bought the horse for $37,000 he told his friend, bloodstock agent Jim Schenck, “This is the horse I'm going to win the Derby with.”
He didn't win the Derby, but Lord Avie was the horse of a lifetime for Perlsweig.
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