12/28/2015 2:38PM

Lavin to receive Eclipse Award of Merit


Leonard Lavin, the beauty-supplies magnate whose Glen Hill Farm has bred more than 80 stakes winners, has been selected to receive the Eclipse Award of Merit, an honor created in 1976 to recognize a “lifetime of outstanding achievement” in racing.

Lavin, 96, is the 40th individual to be selected for the Award of Merit, considered by many to be the highest honor in racing. He will receive the award Jan. 16 at the Eclipse Awards dinner at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Lavin has said he developed an interest in horses as a young boy. In 1966, Lavin, with his late wife, Bernice, bought his first horse, shortly after purchasing property in Ocala, Fla. Eleven years earlier, Lavin and Bernice had purchased a small West Coast beauty- supply company that sold VO5 conditioning shampoo, and they had already begun building their company into a national brand that would later become known as Alberto-Culver.

Lavin has been known throughout his career in racing for his passion for the sport, and he has said that his most exciting racing memory was the victory by his filly Convenience over the champion Typecast in a 1972 match race at Hollywood Park that drew 50,000 spectators. In 1990, Alberto-Culver signed on to sponsor a Breeders’ Cup race, and the company remained a sponsor through 2005.

Most of the horses campaigned by Glen Hill Farm have been trained by Willard Proctor, a Hall of Famer, and his son, Tom Proctor. The younger Proctor was the trainer of One Dreamer, the longshot winner of the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. One Dreamer was sired by Relaunch, a stakes winner campaigned by Glen Hill who became a major stallion.

Other Glen Hill stakes winners have included Top Rung, Concept, Win, Reprised, Rich in Spirit, and Marketing Mix. In total, the farm’s runners have made 1,935 starts, with $18.65 million in purse earnings, according to Equibase.

“It is truly my proudest moment in the horse business – a business that has been one of the great pleasures of my life,” Lavin said about being selected for the Award of Merit, in a release distributed by the Eclipse Award administrators. “From the normal Thursday cards to racing in the Breeders’ Cup and everything in between, I have found every moment to be a thrill and a reward. With that has come the wonderful relationships made with people throughout the industry, the camaraderie with our team at Glen Hill Farm, and, of course, the horses we’ve had the pleasure of breeding, owning, and racing.”

Since 2008, Glen Hill’s operations have been headed up by Craig Bernick, Lavin’s grandson. The farm has posted purse earnings in excess of $2 million a year from 2011-14, and in 2014, it had its best year ever, with $2.25 million in earnings.