Update on Noor and Tribute to Awad

I wanted to give you guys a little update on Noor’s remains being sent to Old Friends. The plan is for the body of the deceased Hall of Famer to be shipped to Michael Blowen’s Georgetown Ky.-based farm Aug. 30.

Noor is being exhumed from his previous burial ground at the Loma Rica training track in California due to the land being developed. Immediately upon his arrival, Noor will be buried in a new cemetery for Hall of Fame inductees near the entrance of Old Friends.

Noor during his racing days, photo from Blood-Horse Library

On Aug. 31, There will be a public memorial service for the son of Nasrullah at Old Friends at 10 a.m. A bugler from Keeneland will play the "Call to the Post" at the service, and Blowen has prepared some readings. The two sons of Noor's trainer Burley Parke are expected to fly to Kentucky for the service.

Funds are still being collected to help with Noor’s burial costs, including a granite marker for his grave. Anyone wishing to contribute can send their donations via check, money order, or PayPal to Old Friends, 1841 Paynes Depot Rd., Georgetown, Ky., 40324 or contact their website (http://www.oldfriendsequine.org/). Please write the name Noor to specify for what your donation is intended.

The project to move Noor to Old Friends has been headed by Charlotte Farmer, with the help of Kathleen Kimber, Blowen, and Kittredge Collins, great-great grandson of Noor’s owner Charles Howard, who is best known as the owner of Seabiscuit.

In this blog, I would also like to pay tribute to Awad, a beloved resident of Old Friends that died in late July.  The millionaire and four-time grade I winner, who still holds the record for the fastest Arlington Million (gr. IT) in history, had been pensioned since 2006.

Awad winning the Arlington Million, photo by Four Footed Fotos

“He’s just unbelievable,” said Blowen. “Little did I know (when he first arrived at Old Friends) how much he would eventually mean to the farm the years he was here. This horse did some amazing things.

“I was in Saratoga when they told me he died. In one way, I’m really sorry I wasn’t there, but in another way, I’m glad I got to talk to (Awad’s former trainer) David Donk and his wife Faye in person. That horse meant everything to them…they used to come visit him at the farm, and they adored him.”

“If you call David and get the answering machine, it says, ‘Hello, you’ve reached the home of David and Faye Donk and the house that Awad bought.’ They brought their kids to the farm, pointed out Awad and said, ‘This is the reason you don’t have to take out a loan for college.’ ”

One of Blowen’s favorite memories of Awad at Old Friends came a few years ago, when a man called the farm to inquire if the horse resided there.

“He and his wife had their first date at Arlington Park on the day Awad won the Arlington Million, and now they’ve been married for 10 years,” said Blowen. “They wanted to come to the farm to renew their vows with Awad. I told him he had to bring the preacher, and he did, and it was hilarious.”

Blowen keeps a snapshot of the scene, with little Silver Charm serving as “best man,” taped to his refrigerator. 

Prized, winner of the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), now resides in Awad’s paddock. “They’re very similar…they like to scream and talk a lot,” said Blowen with a laugh. “You can almost hear the echo of Awad when you hear Prized bellowing.”

Awad at Old Friends, photo by Rick Capone

Finally, I would like to leave you with this beautifully written tribute to Awad by his former exercise rider, Jane Wagner. Since I didn’t know Awad well, I thought you might appreciate hearing about the horse through Wagner’s eyes.

What are your memories of Awad? Were you a fan? I would love to hear your comments.

About Awad... from his friend Jane Turner.

I just got news today that one of my best friends has passed on. His name is AWAD and yes he is a horse. First I want to acknowledge that I shouldn't be  so torn up about it because for one, I haven't spent any real time with him for many years and two,  he has gone on to greener pastures. Hearing of his passing brings to surface the wonderful memories of the time I was so blessed with his daily presence in my life. As with any passing it is those left behind who are sad.

For starters I like to say THANK YOU to all of those at OLD FRIENDS in Kentucky for making his last years of life as close to perfect as a horse could want. Who knows where AWAD would have ended up after he was no longer useful in the breeding shed if not for all your great work. The job you do providing for these retired horses is amazing!

Awad enjoying life at Old Friends, photo by Rick Capone

Who was AWAD? As far as racehorses go he had a blessed life; for starters he was sound, he was fast and he had a heart bigger than he was. In the racing business you would call him an "iron horse" because as some might say "he never missed as dance."

He ran from 1992 -1998. His official career summary says 70 starts, 14 wins, 10 seconds, earnings of $3,270,131. Of course those simple stats leave out the noses, necks, ½ lengths when he was 4th instead of winning partially because  his breath taking, heart pounding come from last flying finish running style left him susceptible to a slow pace. It also set him up to break records when they set a lightning pace in front of him.

I met him the spring of 1993 when I went to work for David Donk at Belmont Park. I started galloping horses in Middleburg, VA for Paul Fout and all you ever heard was the "good ones run in New York." I was blessed by falling into jobs with excellent horsemen everywhere I went from Mike Bell in Arkansas and Kentucky to Eddie Gaudet in Maryland, Niall Brennan in Ocala and then Al Darlington In Aiken. It was Al Darlington who suggested I go to work for Dave. I thought I'd be there a year or two maybe. That was in 1993 before I met AWAD, my Little, BIG horse.

He was the first horse I galloped around that 11/2 oval and it was love at first bouncing step. Here was the horse that every other trainer or rider who had known one before tried to tell you about, simply the horse of a lifetime. A horse dreams are made of !! A horse whose simple presence in my life made me feel like a champion too. I was lucky to work with amazing people like Dave and Fay Donk and all of the horses were my best friends but traveling the US and then to Japan with AWAD was stuff of a fairy tale.

The first road trip was to Arlington for the Secretariat. The stabling was portable stalls in the parking lot because the stable area was under quarantine. I remember walking him after training and he would stop and look directly at the cameras but he was a long shot so they didn't take so many pictures. He tried to tell them!! When we went out to Santa Anita together we would back up and stand. I'd see some people pass by on 4 or 5 different horses. They'd joke with me "I hope you get paid by the hour not the head." Riding him took me out of this world to a place of peace like none other.

Some people thought he was crazy because he liked to talk a lot and show off but he was a great horse to ride and work with. He screamed all the time and announced his coming and going. We always got to ride in the front of the plane so he wouldn't disturb the rest of the horses and we didn't have to listen to him the whole way.

I've ridden quite a few horses in my 23 years at the track and having worked for Todd Pletcher and now for Christophe Clement; I've been on some extremely talented and successful ones. When I sit on one that gives me goose bumps, that feeling of floating on air; One that takes you into your own little world where it's just you and a horse and hooves barely touching the ground, it's AWAD I compare them to because we spent 365 days a year for 5 years in that elevated space.

Awad at Old Friends, photo by Rick Capone

When I first came on the track people told me "don't fall in love with them it's a business." I disagree. I'm here because I love them and as their keeper asking them to give their lives to me in service I owe it to them fast or slow,  My heart will break a million times but I'll keep loving them all one-by-one. There will never be another quite like him but he taught me what to look for. He had that rare combination of cockiness, talent, and heart that all exceptional athletes possess. He was a true champion and how lucky was I to be along for the ride.
I read this quote many years ago before I had a horse but it describes my boy to a T:

"About the head of a truly great horse there is an air of freedom unconquerable. The eyes seem to look on heights beyond our gaze. It is the look of a spirit that can soar. It is not confined to horses even in pictures you can see it in the eyes of the Bonaparte. It is the birthright of eagles."

~John Taintor Foote

Thanks WADIE for letting me soar with you.

Yours Always,


Photo by Rick Capone


Leave a Comment:


Thank you for these wonderful memories of Awad. This was beautifully written. I know too it is a business but for all of that it is hard not to have feelings for these horses. Awad was special to me when he raced and it was great to get acquainted with him at Old Friends. He really did seem to enjoy life there and I know they took good care of him. I last saw him in May, walked down to that area just to see him. He was a character as always. He came running up and couldn't wait to show off. He always seemed to say, "look at me" and his presence was undeniable. He caught my eye the first time I saw him there and after that I always looked for him. Now of course I can look for him no more but he touched my life in a way you don't forget.

25 Aug 2011 12:54 PM
Stellar Jayne

What a lovely tribute to Awad by Jane.  Her love for him shines brightly and I felt it as I read about him and his wonderful personality.  He might be gone, but not forgotten.  I loved the pictures of him.  Thank you!

So glad to read that bringing Noor to Old Friends is moving ahead and that a full tribute will be paid to him when he is laid to rest there.

25 Aug 2011 12:57 PM
A Horsey Canuck

Esther, it's funny how such a towering animal can be referred to as "Wadie". My Mitch, whom I lost 10yrs ago on Aug. 31st, was always "Mitchie" to me. I think it says something about the inside of the horse, a gentle soul not realized. Thank you so much for sharing Jane Turner's memory of "Wadie". I will put this blog in my binder, in Awad's special space. I'm so glad that I was able to meet Awad, in person, albeit at a distance. And thank you, Jane, for sharing your "Wadie" with us. He was definitely one of the special ones. My condolences to you, Michael and all at Old Friends in Kentucky. I know that Awad will be missed by all who knew him.

25 Aug 2011 12:59 PM

Thank you Jane for sharing your memories of Awad. Thank You Michael & Diane Blowen for providing a safe & loving home for our beloved retired athletes. Thank you Mr & Ms Donk for sharing your Shining Star with us.

And last but not least, Thank you to everyone who helped bring Noor to his final resting place at Old Friends. May God Bless You All!!

25 Aug 2011 2:31 PM

I was at Old Friends the day of AWAD's passing that night. We were the last tour, and probably the last of his fans to see him.  

He was having fun posing for us, eating the carrots we gladly fed him, and running the fence in his paddock, and was a happy and proud horse on his last day.

25 Aug 2011 3:18 PM

Great tribute to a wonderful horse.  We were among his last visitors on the evening before he passed.  This was probably our 5 visit to Old Friends and we decided to try to beat the heat and go the evening tour rather than the afternoon. KY was having temps close to 100 degrees for a while and it was miserably hot & muggy.  In fact our guide that night (Martin???maybe...)  expressed concern for the aged Fortunate Prospect as he seemed to be really sluggish with the heat.  Our stop at Awad's paddock was close to the end of our visit and the guide just couldn't stop singing the praises of Awad and repeated much of what was stated in both Michael's and Jane's reflections above.  You can tell how much these horses are loved by staff, volunteers and visitors/fans.  To stand in the sweltering heat just to talk about and look at these animals says something about the dedication they inspire.

So in the waning hours of that hot summer evening, we said goodbye to the horses, never imagining that one, still in the prime of his life, would be gone come morning.  When I read the news early the next day, I felt very sad for the farm's loss, because I know how much these horses touched everyone's lives. And no matter how many times you lose a pet/friend (as these horses seem to become!) it is never easy.   Blessings to all at Old Friends.

25 Aug 2011 3:19 PM
Paula Higgins

Great ypdate and wonderful memories expressed here. I have been donating every two weeks to Old Friends and allotting all of it to Noor's reburial until they no longer need the donation for that purpose and then they can apply it elsewhere. I hope they get what they need.

25 Aug 2011 9:49 PM
Linda in Texas

Thank you Esther, such fitting words from those who knew him best. I admire the photo taken by Rick Capone as Awad is running along his paddock fence with the trail of dust following behind him.

Anyone who says this is 'just a business, don't fall in love with them,' should probably not really be in the business. As that is not the attitude or mind set that they have for those who care for them.

They aim to please if people will accept them as they are, gallant, proud and terribly talented all in each their own fashion.

26 Aug 2011 10:52 AM

Many thanks to Old Friends for the care, love, and dedication the old ones so richly deserve.

Awad I didn't know but I am so glad he experienced a remarkable life with remarkable people from beginning to end.

27 Aug 2011 4:24 PM
Criminal Type

Thanks to everyone at Old friends for what they do for these great animals. I was devestated when I heard of Alysheba's death not long after he came home to reside at Old Friends. I was making plans to go see him, but he sadly passed away before I could get there.

I read an article in I think it was Thoroughbred times about the poor condition of Windfields Farm and the likely development of the land. I know Northern Dancer is buried there and im assuming some others. Is anything being done at this point in time to make sure that ND's remains are safe ? Given his place in throughbred history I think he should be moved to Old Friends or better yet, the Kentucky Horse Park

29 Aug 2011 4:46 AM

Criminal Type: as is happening all over, they sold Windfields to developers and it was a condition that the University that owns a lot of the land in the area would maintain the gravesites -- Nearctic is there as well as Northern Dancer and others.

However, as is usual, while they try to figure out who actually has this responsibility, it looks like they are letting the sites go to hell.

I'm thinking, if I can just get the damn time, to go clip down some of the stinking weeds myself!

I'm gonna try to stay on it and find out who to yell at about this.  (One more thing to do just after coming back from vacation -- work is getting in the way of my life!)

Re: where he gets moved to-- sorry, he should stay in Canada. We just need to get cracking on what to do about this!

30 Aug 2011 10:43 AM

Just o let you know, Criminal Type..I contacted UOIT (Univ. of Ont. Inst. of Tech.) and the Communications Director, Lisa Banks confirms that since the article in the Star was written, their Maintenance Dept. has moved in and pulled weeds, cleared the site, and generally, will now continue to monitor and maintain the area until the land ownership problem is taken care of.

Ms. Banks told me that she had heard from many members of the horse racing community about this already, before my call today.


(I'm still going to try to sneak in one day)

30 Aug 2011 11:04 AM

Today's facebook tells us that Noor is now safely buried at Old Friends. Apparently there were a lot of media there... maybe his story will help to encourage others to save or preserve the burials of our old champions. Thank you Charlotte and everyone who helped.

30 Aug 2011 7:23 PM

I remember a few years ago when the bulldozing of Hollywood Park looked imminent, I became very worried about the remains of Landaluce and Native Diver.  I believe Native Diver was buried whole, and rests under a monument in the center of the walking ring behind the grandstand.  I'm sure Landaluce was cremated, and her ashes are buried under a simple marker in the infield.  There also may be other horses buried on the grounds there that I'm either forgetting, or just never knew about.

The destruction of Hollywood Park no longer seems like something that could happen today or tomorrow, but there's no doubt that it will happen someday.  We can only hope that when the time comes, the Bay Meadows Land Company will offer Native Diver and Landaluce (and any others) the solemn dignity and respect that they deserve, and relocate their remains to a place where they will be tended and cared for in perpetuity.

By the way, Native Diver IS in the Hall Of Fame.  Perhaps his body could find its way to the new cemetery at Old Friends too.

30 Aug 2011 10:09 PM

I grew up outside Omaha Nebraska , worked for Jack Van Berg and went to the old AKSABEN with my parents and had to sit in an unshaded cyclone fenced area for kids with one surly track woeker who Im sure drew the short straw that day but I was always in awe of the fact that they had the great triple crown winner OMAHA buried on the premises and I have wondered since the track was closed whtever happened to his remains.

01 Sep 2011 8:45 AM
Melissa P

So glad that "great-grand-daddy" Noor has found a fitting resting place where generations can learn about him. Our very first mare was out of a Jaipur mare. Her second dam was by Noor. I always tried to find as much information as I could on Noor. I always hoped that, one day, we'd catch lightning in a bottle and have a horse who could run like he did.

Now when we visit Old Friends, we'll be able to remember our dear old mare while paying our respects to her great-grand-daddy.

01 Sep 2011 1:36 PM

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