Updated on 09/16/2011 7:51AM

Salman, War Emblem owner, dead

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Prince Salman celebrates on the Pimlico winner's stand following War Emblem's victory in the 2002 Preakness. Salman died suddenly on Monday of a heart attack while in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Prince Ahmed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, whose love of Thoroughbred racing reached its zenith less than three months ago with the Kentucky Derby victory of War Emblem, died Monday at his home in Riyadh, apparently of a heart attack. He was 43.

According to Abdulsalam al Haddad, the private secretary for Salman, the prince was stricken at his home at 1:30 Riyadh time on Monday afternoon. "He was taken to the hospital, where the doctors tried to revive him, but his death was announced at 2:05," Haddad said by telephone from Riyadh. Haddad said that Salman had minor surgery in Saudi Arabia three days before his death but that the surgery was unrelated to his death.

Salman's death was eerily similar to that of his older brother, Prince Fahd Salman, who died of a heart attack at age 46 one year ago. Those closest to Salman in this country were stunned. Bob Baffert, who trained War Emblem and Point Given to two classic victories apiece for Salman, had just watched War Emblem gallop by after a routine training session on Monday at Del Mar when he received a phone call from Richard Mulhall, the prince's racing manager for The Thoroughbred Corporation.

"I've got some bad news, some really bad, bad news," Mulhall began. All Baffert could mumble into his cell phone was, "You're kidding. You're kidding."

A half-hour later, back at his barn, Baffert said, "I feel bad for his wife and kids. I had just talked to him the other day. He was fine. He was upbeat. I can't believe it. I mean, with me, he wasn't just a client. He was a good friend."

Baffert said Salman had told Baffert he would be attending the Aug. 3 wedding of the trainer and his fiancee, Jill Moss, in Coronado, Calif. Moss, crushed by the news, arrived at the barn shortly after learning of the prince's death. She hugged Baffert, and the two went into Baffert's stable office, where they closed the door to grieve privately.

Halfway around the world, those who worked closest with Salman were equally stunned. Groping for the right words, Haddad said, "He was a generous, kind person. Very genuine. People who worked with him a lot loved him. I never heard anything bad about him, nothing negative. He was always gracious, whether he won or lost. He was a sportsman by all means."

Salman had two decidedly different lives. In the United States, his main business was racing and breeding horses. His best runners included War Emblem, Point Given, and three Breeders' Cup winners - Anees, Jewel Princess, and Spain. In Saudi Arabia, where he was a member of the ruling family, Salman ran a large publishing business that had offices in Saudi Arabia and London, England. The two lives clashed in June, when Salman did not attend War Emblem's bid for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.

"The daily newspapers are in black and white and are being transferred to color. It's a huge project," Haddad said. "The new color printing presses are going to be installed by the end of the summer. He had to take care of business."

Salman's greatest coup in racing occurred this spring, when he authorized the purchase of War Emblem a little more than three weeks before the Kentucky Derby from Russell Reineman. For $900,000, plus commissions, Salman acquired 90 percent of a colt who went off as a 20-1 longshot in the Derby.

But War Emblem won the Derby with a front-running performance, then captured the Preakness Stakes two weeks later. During that time, Salman became embroiled in a dispute with Reineman over the dispensation of a $1 million bonus War Emblem earned from Sportsman's Park for winning both the Illinois Derby and Kentucky Derby.

War Emblem stumbled badly at the start of the Belmont Stakes, effectively eliminating his chance of becoming the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown. He is now at Del Mar, preparing for his next scheduled start. Baffert said the Aug. 4 Haskell Invitational is the most likely spot, but on Monday - just before learning of the prince's death - Baffert said War Emblem might await Del Mar's Pacific Classic on Aug. 25 if the weight spread in the Haskell is not to his liking.

Salman first owned horses in the 1980's after graduating from the University of California at Irvine, but his participation increased dramatically in the 1990's with the formation of The Thoroughbred Corporation. Over the years, he employed a number of trainers, including Baffert, Wally Dollase, Neil Drysdale, Alex Hassinger Jr., John Kimmel, D. Wayne Lukas, Richard Mandella, Bill Mott, and John Shirreffs. Mulhall also trained for Salman before becoming the general manager of The Thoroughbred Corporation.

Dollase trained Salman's first champion, 1996 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Jewel Princess, whom the prince co-owned. Hassinger trained Salman's first wholly owned champion, Anees, who won the 1999 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Lukas guided Spain to a lengthy career that saw her emerge as the top money-winning filly or mare in the United States. She also won the Breeders' Cup Distaff in 2000.

The last two years, however, were the best for Salman. Point Given, a colt whom he also bred, was the best racehorse he ever owned. Last year, Point Given won two-thirds of the Triple Crown, four consecutive races worth at least $1 million, five Grade 1 races, and was named Horse of the Year.

War Emblem brought Salman his first Kentucky Derby victory. His other major stakes winners included Habibti, Lazy Lode, Officer, Royal Anthem, Saudi Poetry, Sharp Cat, Simple Magic, and Windsharp.

There are three horses owned by The Thoroughbred Corporation entered on Wednesday's opening-day card at Del Mar - Macho Image in the third race, Johar in the fifth, and Ecstatic in the eighth. Mulhall said all would run.

"It's a corporation," said Mulhall, who is based at the prince's farm in Bradbury, Calif. "The business will continue like it has been for now, but long-range, it's too early to tell. It hasn't even been 24 hours yet."

Haddad said that Salman's funeral was to be held in Riyadh on Tuesday. "There will be three days of condolences, of paying respect for the family. That is the Arabic tradition," Haddad said.

Salman is survived by his wife, Lamia, and five children - four daughters, including triplets, and a son born one year ago.