As the owner of The Thoroughbred Corporation, Prince Ahmed Salman had dealings with many within the North American Thoroughbred industry. Those who worked with him remember him as an enthusiastic and passionate fan of horse racing.
"We are absolutely shocked and deeply saddened," said Robert N. Clay, owner of Three Chimneys Farm, where The Thoroughbred Corporation's Horse of the Year Point Given stands at stud. "We not only lost a business partner, but a good friend. It was a total shocker to me. He was always a bundle of energy and picture of good health when I saw him. He was a very kind and generous guy and he was a fun-loving guy. It is a huge loss for our industry. He had a very positive attitude and he was passionate about his horses and horse racing. Nobody loved the thrill of victory as much as he did. He was incredibly enthusiastic when one of his horses came down the stretch. He epitomized what you want to see in a race fan."
Thoroughbred Corp.'s racing manager Richard Mulhall said Prince Salman's family called him early Monday with the sad news.
"It is a huge shock," he said. Regarding the stable, Mulhall said because it is set up as a corporation the plans already in place will proceed for the time being.
"We'll just go on until we're told differently," he said. Salman had a few partners in several horses and he has a younger brother who is also interested in racing. Mulhall, however, did it is unlikely that either the partner or the brother would be willing to shoulder the entire operation.
Los Angeles attorney Neil Papiano handled the affairs of The Thoroughbred Corp. through the years. "I really enjoyed him," said Papiano. "I liked him personally as a friend, and he was a man who obviously understood racing well and was a great attribute to racing. He was jovial, always fun to be around, and always knowledgeable about racing. This is very damaging, a tragedy."
Papiano, who is representing The Thoroughbred Corp. in the dispute over the $1 million bonus due War Emblem for winning both the Illinois Derby and the Kentucky Derby, said he has filed claims for the bouns in both Chicago and Los Angeles, and that despite the prince's death "we have an obligation to continue whatever we're doing."
Nick Nicholson, president of the Keeneland Association, where The Thoroughbred Corp. bought horses, praised Prince Salman as a sportsman.
"One of the highest compliments that you can pay someone is that they are a sportsman. He was a sportsman in the truest sense of the word," Nicholson said. "This is an enormous loss for the entire Thoroughbred industry. He embodied what you wanted an owner to be. He was enthusiastic. He genuinely loved the sport. He was a hands-on owner who was very involved in all the decisions related to his horses--from purchasing to racing to breeding."
"I was shocked as everyone else was," said Alice Chandler, owner of Mill Ridge Farm, where about 50 broodmares owned by The Thoroughbred Corporation are kept. "I think most people who knew him are in shock because he was too young to die. He was pretty enthusiastic about supporting the American racing industry."
When many breeders sustained losses in 2001 as a result of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome, Salman was understanding about the problem, said Chandler, who deals primarily with Richard Mulhall, racing manager for The Thoroughbred Corp. due to time differences between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia that made regular contact with Salman difficult.
Churchill Downs president and CEO Thomas H. Meeker recalled Salman's passion for the sport as well as his respect for the traditions associated with the Kentucky Derby.
"Prince Salman had a life-long passion for horse racing, and his personal investment in our sport was a labor of love," Meeker said. "The horses he campaigned proved themselves champions on and off the track, and their star power generated much positive attention for our sport. The prince's commitment to racing was unwavering, and his infectious enthusiasm for the game will be greatly missed. Finally, Prince Salman held the Kentucky Derby in the highest esteem -- he loved and appreciated the Derby's legacy as much as we do. Churchill Downs -- and all of racing -- has lost a remarkable horsemen and true fan. Churchill Downs Incorporated and its family of employees is deeply saddened by the death of Prince Ahmed Salman. We felt privileged to share in the Prince's Kentucky Derby triumph with War Emblem last May, and we now share the sorrow felt by his friends and family at the news of his passing."
"I'm shocked and saddened," jockey Gary Stevens, who rode Point Given to victories in the Preakness and Belmont stakes in 2001, told the Associated Press. "We were very close friends outside of racing. He was a guy who loved to laugh and loved a good time."
Stevens said the prince's death would have a major impact on the sport.
"He had major flair and loved the game and was continuing to grow in the sport," he said. "At 43, everybody was looking forward to him having a long, long career in the industry and he was definitely a boost to Thoroughbred racing."
Tim Smith, commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said in a statement: "It is with great sorrow that we learned today of the passing of Prince Ahmed bin Salman. All of us connected with the NTRA and Breeders' Cup extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family and to his colleagues at The Thoroughbred Corporation. His tragic and premature loss is a significant blow to the Thoroughbred racing industry. Having campaigned such Thoroughbred stars as War Emblem, Point Given, Spain, Sharp Cat and many others, Prince Ahmed distinguished himself as a man who competed and thrived at our sport's highest levels. His record as an owner, breeder and purchaser at auction will leave an indelible mark on the sport that he loved so dearly."