(By Avalyn Hunter)
If hope springs eternal in the breast of the small breeder and owner, it's because of horses like Lord Avie. The recently deceased champion cost just $37,000 as a 2-year-old in 1980--the same year for which he was named U.S. champion juvenile male--in part because of a relatively modest pedigree. His sire, the Sir Gaylord horse Lord Gaylord, won just one minor race in six tries. He was a much better stallion than racer, becoming a perennial leader in the Mid-Atlantic region, but Lord Avie would represent the apex of his career. Lord Avie's dam, the Gallant Man mare Avie, already had produced grade II winner Jolly Johu (by Restless Native) and and graded-placed stakes winner Avum (by Umbrella Fella), but she was 15 years old at the time of Lord Avie's birth; he would be her final foal. Avie herself, though a full or half sister to three stakes winners--including the 1963 Alabama Stakes winner Tona (by Nashua)--had won just one of 24 starts. Overall, the pedigree could be characterized as solid but not particularly fashionable.
Lord Avie outran that pedigree with a vengeance. During his championship juvenile season, he was never out of the money in 10 tries, his victories including the Champagne Stakes and the Young America Stakes (both gr. I). The aplomb with which he won these late-season distance events suggested that he was a genuine threat to win a classic race. Injury spoiled that dream, but he did win the Florida Derby (gr. I) and place in both the Haskell Invitational and the Travers (both gr. I) before retiring to stud. His bankroll of $705,977 was more than all six of his elder siblings had earned put together, and more appreciation on his initial price was to come, as the colt was syndicated for $10 million.
While Lord Avie never sired his own equal, he did get some good runners, among them 2007 Canadian champion turf horse Cloudy's Knight, European highweight Ode, and multiple grade I winner Magical Maiden. He gained a reputation as a solid breed-to-race sire while standing at Spendthrift and Lane's End, with some loyalists willing to haul mares across multiple states to get to him. They had reason; he eventually sired 503 winners, 84 of them stakes winners, from 854 named foals before being pensioned in 2002.
Unfortunately, Lord Avie has left neither a good sire son nor a reputation as a major broodmare sire. His best hope for the continuation of his legacy was probably his maternal grandson Lawyer Ron, the champion older male of 2007, but this hope was cut short after Lawyer Ron died from complications of colic surgery after siring just two crops. Nonetheless, Lord Avie compiled a more than honorable record as both a racer and a sire and gave one more proof that with a little luck, even modest players in the Thoroughbred game can reach for the stars.