The news that 1980’s champion juvenile colt, Lord Avie, died on Dec. 28 is the lead to a fine piece at Paulick Report by Steve Montemarano. The writer had a close relationship with the horse’s trainer, Dan Perlsweig, and brings some details to the story that give it greater depth and interest.
In surveying Lord Avie’s career, Montemarano mentions that Lord Avie began the trend of stallion syndications that included escalator clauses to increase the stallion’s price if he accomplished more at the racetrack.
In his column at Daily Racing Form 31 years ago, Logan Bailey reported on the details of Lord Avie’s syndication. There were 40 shares priced at $250,000 for a base value of $10 million if the “colt never again sets a foot on the race track.”
The share price was set to rise by $100,000 if Lord Avie won the Kentucky Derby, and it would have risen another $100,000 if Lord Avie had won any two of these four races: Preakness, Belmont, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Marlboro Cup. If Lord Avie had won the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old it would have added $100,000 to the share but with a ceiling of $500,000 gross for a share no matter if he swept the board by winning all.
That had never happened before, and the horse didn’t win any of the premiums that would have escalated his stud value and share price, retired after reinjuring a suspensory in the Travers in August, and entered stud at Spendthrift Farm in 1982.
Lord Avie was a good horse, a solid athlete who probably would have made a better classic colt than a juvenile, and in retrospect, he should have given classic winner Pleasant Colony a tussle for his success and championship. But he never got the chance, and I believe the rotten escalator clause in his share contract was at the root of the problem.
Montemarano quotes Perlsweig about the influence of money on racing decisions related to Lord Avie: “Veterinarians Pete Hall, William O. Reed, and M. B. Teigland all said to run the horse in the Kentucky Derby. But the insurance people wouldn’t let us” because of fears of injury due to a suspensory inflammation. Instead, Lord Avie was withdrawn from training for the Kentucky Derby, and later that season came back and was injured then.
To say that this is one of the most vile and loathsome intrusions of breeding business speculation onto racing is an understatement. The purpose of racehorses is to race, and if they do not, they do not succeed, do not become as celebrated, and do not earn as grand a place at stud.
Yet in the fervid breeding and racing environment of the early 1980s, the valuation of Lord Avie wasn’t seen as harmful to racing or the overall business of breeding.
When the tax laws changed five years after his retirement, however, those “revisions” destroyed his value, along with that of thousands of other horses, and part of the collateral damage was the bankruptcy of Spendthrift Farm, along with many other entities. Following a couple more changes in ownership, Spendthrift is now owned by Wayne Hughes and stands leading sire Malibu Moon (by A.P. Indy).
Lord Avie never reached the heights of success attained by Malibu Moon, for example, but was nonetheless a pretty good stallion and sired 74 stakes winners. He was typically a force for soundness, despite the concerns for his own health, and he tended to get horses with the capacity to go two turns.
As a stallion, Lord Avie finished his career at Lane’s End, where he moved after the collapse of Spendthrift, and the 34-year-old was living at Blue Ridge Farm in Virginia as a respected and cared-for pensioner at the time of his death.