Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, owner of Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem and 2001 horse of the year Point Given, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 43.
Ahmed, a nephew of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and also chairman of a publishing empire, died in the capital of Riyadh.
In May, Ahmed became the first Arab owner to win the Kentucky Derby. War Emblem also won the Preakness Stakes before stumbling in the Belmont Stakes and finishing eighth, failing to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
"I'm in shock," Bob Baffert, who trained War Emblem and Point Given for Salman, told industry publication The Blood Horse. "When you go through a Triple Crown together, you get really close. He was like family. His passion for horses was incredible; he lived and breathed them."
The U.S.-educated Ahmed spent $900,000 to buy War Emblem three weeks before the Kentucky Derby, after the horse won the Illinois Derby.
"I think this is one of the best investments I ever made in my life, besides buying oil in Arabia," Ahmed said after War Emblem won the Preakness.
But Point Given was perhaps his finest, being named 2001 horse of the year. Point Given had finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
"I'm shocked and saddened," said jockey Gary Stevens, who rode Point Given to wins in the Preakness and Belmont stakes in 2001, which were The Thoroughbred Corp.'s first Triple Crown wins. "We were very close friends outside of racing. He was a guy who loved to laugh and loved a good time."
The colt was unexpectedly retired in August after he strained a tendon in his left foreleg. Point Given earned $3,968,500, with nine victories in 13 starts.
Ahmed also owned Spain, racing's all-time female money-winner. Active in sales for several years, Ahmed often bought the topper, or costliest horse in the ring.
Ahmed's father, Prince Salman, is the powerful governor of Riyadh who turned the city into a modern, high-tech metropolis that boasts some of the ritziest malls in the Middle East.
In the late 1980s, Ahmed became chairman of the board of a publishing company, the Saudi Research and Marketing Group. He helped turn the business that put out three publications and was worth $90-million into a company that boasts a capital of $160-million and total assets in excess of $533-million.
It owns 17 publications, including the respected London-based Asharq Al-Awsat paper and the English-language daily Arab News.
"On a personal level he was the kindest person I've ever seen _ he was a prince without the airs," said Khalid Al-Maeena, editor-in-chief of the Arab News.
Mohammed al-Awwam, deputy editor of Asharq al-Awsat, said the prince had been complaining of stomach problems and visited the hospital off and on for six weeks, though he was well enough to lead a board meeting 10 days ago.
Ahmed is survived by a wife and five children. Last year, Ahmed's elder brother, Prince Fahd, died of a heart attack at 46.
Another brother, Prince Sultan Bin Salman, is the head of Saudi Arabia's tourism commission.
Ahmed will be buried today in Riyadh al-Awwam said.