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War Emblem’s Owner Skips Belmont

June 8, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ The Saudi Arabian prince who paid $900,000 for War Emblem nearly two months ago was a no-show at Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

Instead of watching War Emblem try to win the Belmont and become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner, Prince Ahmed bin Salman was in the Saudi capital of Riyadh tending to ``family obligations.″

``He’s very, very disappointed,″ said Richard Mulhall, racing manager for The Thoroughbred Corp., the prince’s racing outfit. ``He’s already called about five times. He’s a little nervous.″

Mulhall, who spoke to reporters in the press box, said he didn’t know the specifics of the prince’s obligations.

There were concerns about having a prominent Saudi in New York after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Several Saudi nationals were identified among the terrorists. But Mulhall said security played no part in the absence.

``If it was a security thing, he wouldn’t have his brother here,″ Mulhall said.

Ahmed sent his younger brother, Faisal, in his place. Faisal didn’t attend War Emblem’s Kentucky Derby or Preakness victories, and isn’t part of his brother’s thoroughbred ownership group.

Spokesmen for the FBI and the State Department said they had no information that any warning or advisory was given to Ahmed.

Mulhall said the prince had ``a little more security″ put into place in recent weeks.

``We talked a little bit about it, but there was no real concern,″ he said. ``I think there’s a lot more people that like him than dislike him.″

Ahmed planned to listen to the race call over a cell phone, Mulhall said.

Ahmed initially said he would attend.

``He kept trying to come,″ Mulhall said. ``We had all the hotel rooms and everything was all set for him to be here, and then he just couldn’t make it.″

Ahmed was a high-profile presence in the winner’s circle after War Emblem’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories. The prince led the colt into the winner’s circle each time and kissed jockey Victor Espinoza and hugged trainer Bob Baffert.

It’s not the first time the prince didn’t attend a Triple Crown race involving one of his horses. He was absent when Point Given won last year’s Preakness.

Ahmed runs a newspaper publishing empire based in Riyadh and London. He returned to Riyadh after the May 18 Preakness and hasn’t been in the United States since.

``He took too much time with the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby, which he didn’t expect to do, and he just couldn’t get out of this,″ Mulhall said.

A victory Saturday would bring War Emblem a $5 million bonus, in addition to the $600,000 Belmont purse.

The prince might have been ensnared in legal matters had he showed up.

Famed palimony lawyer Marvin Mitchelson said he would try and collect a portion of War Emblem’s winnings to satisfy a $216 million judgment against a Saudi Arabian sheik.

Saudi King Fahd and his brother Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz have already been named in a federal lawsuit filed by Sheika Dena Al Fassi, who separated from Sheik Mohammed Al Fassi in 1993 and was awarded an $81.5 million piece of his multibillion-dollar fortune.

Mitchelson, who represents the sheika, said Mohammed Al Fassi is now claiming that members of the Saudi Arabian royal family, including Ahmed, have assumed control of his money and assets.

``It’s a little far out,″ Mulhall said.

NYRA’s security plan for Saturday included rooftop snipers and undercover officers working an expected crowd of 80,000.

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