'He Was One Of The Very Special Ones': Dual Classic Winner War Emblem Dies At Age 21 - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘He Was One Of The Very Special Ones’: Dual Classic Winner War Emblem Dies At Age 21

Dual classic winner War Emblem at Old Friends.

War Emblem, the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, has died. The dual classic winner, who had been pensioned at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center in Georgetown, Ky., since 2015, was found deceased early Wednesday morning.

The cause of death is perceived to be a fatal paddock accident, but exact details are unknown. However, a full necropsy report is pending. He was 21.

In 2015 Old Friends repatriated War Emblem from the Yoshida family's Shadai Stallion Farm in Japan. He was the second Kentucky Derby winner returned to the Bluegrass by Old Friends from overseas. Silver Charm, 1997 Derby winner, arrived in 2014.

War Emblem (Our Emblem – Sweetest Lady, Lord at War) was bred by Charles Nuckols Jr. and Sons of Midway, Ky., and originally campaigned by Russell Reineman and trainer Frank Springer. The near-black stallion was sold to Prince Ahmed bin Salman's Thoroughbred Corp. and transferred to Bob Baffert's barn after he captured the Grade 2 Illinois Derby in an impressive gate-to-wire victory.

Three weeks later, War Emblem captured the 128th running of the Kentucky Derby for his new connections.

Following an equally impressive win in the Preakness, War Emblem became a serious contender to capture history's 12th Triple Crown, but he stumbled badly at the start of the Belmont Stakes and ended up beaten by long shot Sarava, who is also a retiree at Old Friends.

War Emblem went on to capture the Haskell Invitational for a third Grade 1 win that year, and he retired with 13 starts, seven wins, and earnings of $3,491,000.

In the fall of 2002, War Emblem was sold to the Yoshida family for $17 million to stand at their renowned Shadai Stallion Station in Hokkaido, Japan, which also stood the great Sunday Silence. War Emblem proved a difficult but talented stallion, having sired less than 200 foals in his career but many of them talented runners, including Japan's champion 2-year-old filly Robe Tissage.

When War Emblem retired from stud duty the Yoshida family generously agreed to donate the stallion to Old Friends. Negotiations were coordinated by Narvick International's Emmanuel de Seroux.

“We're very grateful to Mr. Yoshida and all of the fans who helped get War Emblem to Old Friends nearly five years ago,” said Old Friends founder and president Michael Blowen. “I know we're supposed to appreciate all of our retirees the same but he was one of the very special ones. He was tough, narcissistic, bold, and handsome. I adored him.

“I proudly count among a very meager number of accomplishments the day he allowed me to put his halter on without biting me,” Blowen added. “He trusted me. What more could I ask for? The farm will recover from his loss over time, but it'll never be the same.”

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