12/31/2007 1:00AM

Affirmed owner Louis Wolfson dead at 95

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - Louis Wolfson, who bred and raced 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed with wife, Patrice, died Sunday night at his home in Bal Harbour, Fla. Wolfson was 95 and had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

The Wolfsons campaigned their horses, including Affirmed, in the name of their Harbor View Farm. Wolfson raced many stakes performers, but Affirmed represented a pinnacle of achievement for Wolfson as both breeder and owner. The Exclusive Native colt's battles with rival Alydar, who finished second in each of the 1978 Triple Crown races, still rank among the sport's greatest moments.

Affirmed - the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes - was voted Horse of the Year twice, in 1978 and 1979, and also was champion at 2 in 1977, at 3 in 1978, and at 4 in 1979.

Other Harbor View runners to be named champion were 1965 handicap male Roman Brother, also voted Horse of the Year by the Daily Racing Form; 1963 champion juvenile male Raise a Native, grandsire of Affirmed; Outstandingly, 1984 champion juvenile filly and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner; and Flawlessly, an Affirmed homebred named champion turf female in 1992 and 1993.

Two Wolfson sons, Steve and Gary, also bred It's in the Air, champion juvenile filly in 1978, in the name of Happy Valley Farm. Steve also is a well-known handicapper who has competed with son Steve Jr. in national handicapping competitions.

Another of Lou Wolfson's sons, Marty Wolfson, is a successful trainer.

"He knew how to walk with kings, but he was much more comfortable spending time with people on the backstretch, with the people who really made racing go," Steve Wolfson said of his father. "He rose from nowhere, and he never lost sight of where he came from and who was really important. He was so grounded and real, and I am lucky to have had him for a mentor."

Wolfson's life outside racing was marked by both wealth and controversy. A self-made businessman, he became rich as an industrialist and Wall Street financier. But in 1967 he was convicted of selling unregistered shares, and the following year he was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice related to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into Merritt-Chapman, a company he chaired. In 1969, he served a year in federal prison for the latter conviction. Wolfson also played a role in the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas in 1969 after a foundation Wolfson established paid the justice $20,000 in 1966, when Wolfson had been under investigation. Though Wolfson's conviction never was reviewed by the Supreme Court and Fortas returned the $20,000 retainer, the connection contributed to Fortas's resignation.

Wolfson married Patrice Jacobs, daughter of the late Hall of Fame trainer Hirsch Jacobs, in 1972 after the death of his first wife, Florence, in 1968. The union established the foundation for a great Thoroughbred partnership that found its ultimate fulfillment in Affirmed's racing career and helped Wolfson and his family recover from his time in prison.

"His name meant more to him than anything in the world," Steve Wolfson, 66, recalled earlier this year when he opened the Kentucky Horse Park's permanent exhibition of Affirmed's trophies. "On the back of Affirmed, he was resurrected. It was a great bringing together of a family, seeing him rise to the top again. It was palpable. He had lost his name, never stopped trying to prove his innocence. . . . Affirmed brought him back."

Steve Wolfson called his father "a maverick" who achieved success early in racing when Raise a Native was named champion just two years after Wolfson got into the game.

"He had an unbelievable, wonderful life," Steve Wolfson said.

Wolfson died on the 35th anniversary of his marriage to Patrice.

Services were to take place on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Temple Ahavath Chesed in Jacksonville, Fla.