12/15/2009 1:00AM

Lee Eaton, breeder, dies at 76

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Lee Eaton, the founder of Eaton Sales Agency and the co-breeder of 1976 Kentucky Derby winner Bold Forbes, died on Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., of natural causes, according to reports. Eaton was 76.

Eaton, who graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1964 with a degree in agriculture, spent the majority of his adult life living and working in central Kentucky, breeding under the name Eaton Farms Inc. and selling horses under the banner Eaton Sales. Eaton later sold a share in his sales agency to John Williams to create the Eaton-Williams sales agency, a leading consignor at sales in Kentucky and New York for much of the 1980s and 1990s.

Operating off of a 270-acre farm he purchased in 1964 and named Indian Hill, Eaton was the co-breeder, with the Red Bull Stable of Marvin Waldman and Samuel Lyon, of the 1976 3-year-old champion Bold Forbes, winner of the Derby and that year's Belmont Stakes. In addition, Eaton co-bred Green Desert, a multiple Group 1 winner and major sire, along with Grade 1 winners Saratoga Six and Life at the Top.

In 1991, Eaton made Reiley McDonald a partner in his sales agency. McDonald, with Tom VanMeter, purchased the agency outright in 1995, but the partners retained the Eaton name.