01/01/2014 12:52PM

Leslie Brownell Combs II, former president of family's Spendthrift Farm, dies


Leslie Brownell Combs II, former president of prominent central Kentucky stud farm Spendthrift Farm, died on Sunday in Lexington, Ky. He was 80.

Combs was the son of Leslie Combs II, who founded Spendthrift Farm in 1937 and grew the business into one of the 20th century’s leading breeding and sales operations.

Leslie Brownell Combs took over supervision of Spendthrift in 1974 from his father and carried the farm’s stallion division to new heights over the subsequent decade. Combs was a major force in the then-new practice of stallion syndication, setting world records by syndicating the last two Triple Crown winners, Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978), for eight figures after their racing careers ended.

During the early 1980s, the Combses sold part of Spendthrift as an estate planning measure, and then offered stock in the farm to the public in 1983, just prior to a collapse in the Thoroughbred breeding market. Over the next several years, a series of lawsuits among Spendthrift investors and the continuing economic downturn resulted in the farm declaring bankruptcy in 1988, two years before Leslie Combs II died at age 88. It then was transferred through a series of owners and managers before self-storage company magnate B. Wayne Hughes purchased Spendthrift in 2004 and rebuilt the farm to a prominent contemporary breeding operation.

Combs served as chairman of the Kentucky Racing Commission and was a former vice president of the Breeders’ Cup. He is survived by two sons, Leslie Combs III and Brownell Combs, and two daughters, Dorothy Combs and Jennifer Combs Wick.

Milward Funeral Home in Lexington is in charge of funeral arrangements, and a graveside service at Lexington Cemetery will be held on Monday, Jan. 6, at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.