Awad running in his paddock at Old Friends. (Photo by Rick Capone)
Awad, winner of nine total graded-stakes races in his career, four of them Grade 1 stakes races, including the Arlington Million, Sword Dancer Invitational, Secretariat Stakes and Manhattan Handicap, was found dead in his paddock early this morning, Saturday, July 23, 2011, at Old Friends, the thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky. He was 21.
According to veterinarian Dr. Douglas Byars and Old Friends founder and president Michael Blowen, the cause of death was a sudden heart attack, but a full necropsy is currently underway at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington.
“It’s been an honor to be associated with such a champion as Awad,” said Blowen in a press release from Old Friends today. “He was a favorite at the farm and a favorite of so many of the visiting fans. He will be sorely missed,”
“He was a great horse, he had a tremendous impact on everyone,” said Awad's trainer David Donk today from his barn at Saratoga. “He got the best care of his life while at Old Friends, and we’re so glad we got visit him there last year.”
Out of Caveat-Dancer's Candy, by Noble Dancer, Awad raced 70 times in his career, winning 14 times and collecting $3,270,131 in earnings. He also had 10 seconds and 11 thirds, putting him in the money in 50 percent of his races throughout his career.
His first Grade 1 victory came in 1993, when he won the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington International. Arlington would be a track in which he would love to run throughout his career.
In 1995, Awad won the Arlington Million at the track, and set a new track record of 1:58.69 in the 1-1/4-mile race. The win in that race also gave Donk and jockey Eddie Maple their first Arlington Million victories.
Awad also set a track record at Saratoga in 1997. While he fell short in the 1995 Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap at Saratoga, he came back in '97 to win the 1-1/2-mile race with Pat Day riding, and in the process, set a track record of 2:23.20, which still stands today.
Upon his retirement in 1999, Awad stood at stud at Northview Stallion Station in Maryland. Over time, he sired one stakes winner, Underbidder, and the multiple stakes-placed Arab Miss.
Then, in September 2006, he was pensioned to Old Friends, where he enjoyed his retirement in a paddock right outside of Blowen's home.
What makes his retirement at Old Friends an even better story is that he spent most of his time at Old Friends one paddock over from his old racing rival, Kiri's Clown.
Awad and Kiri's Clown. Their names are synonymous with greatness in horse racing.
They met a number of times in their racing careers, with two of their most notable times coming in the 1995 Sword Dancer, where Kiri got he better of Awad on that day. Then they met up again in the 1995 Arlington Million, where Awad ruled on that day.
Over the last few years, they enjoyed each other's company at Old Friends. For a long time they were in adjoining paddocks, where, every once in a while, you would see them running side-by-side once again down the length of their paddocks. You could only imagine what they might have been saying to each other as they had fun running together like they did in their youth.
""Gotha that time old man," Awad might have been saying to Kiri.
"Yeah, well, you just wait till next time old dude," Kiri might have been replying.
Who knows what they might have been saying, but you could tell they were having fun all the same.
Early last year, Kiri was moved toward the front of the farm into a paddock diagonal to Awad's paddock, and almost every day you would see the two meeting up with each other at the corner of their paddocks, looking across at each other and having "a conversation." They always seemed to enjoy each other's company.
However, today, Saturday, July 23, 2011, their journey together came to an end, as Awad passed away in the early morning hours. He was found in the corner of his paddock, the one closest to Kiri, his long-time friend.
Their final race on earth is now over. Still, as nature takes its course, someday Kiri will pass as well, and you can be sure it will be Awad at the front of the line waiting for his friend to arrive. There, the two of them will meet up once again in the longest, greenest pastures ever, and they will get to race each other to their heart's content for all eternity.
Rest in Peace Awad. We will miss you very much.