Before today, Lord Avie was the most celebrated 3-year-old in America, valued at $10 million or more and favored to win the Kentucky Derby.

By this afternoon he was a hasbeen. He lost the Fountain of Youth Stakes in a manner that perfectly demonstrated why he is an average colt.

Akureyri won the $65,000 event in a three-horse photo finish over Pleasant Colony and Lord Avie, with Jiggs Alarm another 1 1/2 lengths back in fourth place. The first two finishers came into the race with decent, but not sensational credentials; the time of the race was decent, but hardly sensational.

And those adjectives perfectly describe Lord Avie. He is a solid, reliable colt, but not quite one of championship caliber. "We just got beat; we had no excuse," trainer Danny Perlsweig conceded, although he might properly have blamed the slow pace for compromising his stretch-runner's chances.

There weren't many horses with early speed in the Fountain of Youth field, and when Akureyri and Jiggs Alarm went out for the early lead, both their jockeys were able to keep them under restraint. While they were cruising the first half mile in 48 seconds, Lord Avie was lagging 10 lengths behind them.

As the field reached the final turn, everybody started running in earnest, Jiggs Alarm stuck his neck in front of Akureyri, but couldn't shake him off. jLord Avie and Pleasant Colony began to rally from the back of the pack, matching strides. But while Chris McCarron was forced to lose ground around the turn, Vince Bracciale Jr. hugged the rail with Pleasant Colony. a

Akureyri disposed of Jiggs Alarm, the 7-to-2 second choice, who evidently can't go a distance against this kind of competition. But the two stretch-runners were closing in on him, and the crowd here proably thought that Lord Avie was going to justify his 2-to-5 favoritism by unleashing one of his powerful stretch runs.

But he couldn't overtake the two leaders. Pleasant Colony seemed to gain the lead a few strides from the finish, but Bracciale said, "He flattened out late." But with jockey Eddie Maple whipping him furiously, Akureyri came back to gain a nose decision, with Pleasant Colony a head in front of Lord Avie. They covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:44 2/5.

Akureyri paid $18,40, $8 and $3. Pleasant Colony returned $17 and $4.20, while Lord Avie paid $2.20 to show.

The result may have surprised most bettors, but it didn't surprise trainer Woody Stephens. "I thought all along, the way he's been training, I'd beat Lord Avie," he said. "This is a good horse, tough and game. You don't get by this horse. After this, he's nominated for all of them, the Florida Derby, the Blue Grass and the Kentucky Derby."