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

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