Sarava, the 2002 Belmont Stakes Winner, has Died at Old Friends

The 24-year old stallion was the first Classic winner to be donated to Old Friends thanks to his owners, Gary Drake, and Paul and Susan Roy of Great Britain.

GEORGETOWN, Ky. – Aug. 28, 2023 – Old Friends, the Thoroughbred retirement facility in Georgetown, Ky., is deeply saddened to announce that Sarava, the upset winner of the 2002 Belmont Stakes (G1), has died today.

According to the preliminary report from Dr. Colton Thacker at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, he was euthanized due to complications from a leg fracture. He was 24.

The dark bay thoroughbred was the first Classic winner to be retired to the farm on Sept. 29, 2012, thanks to his owners, Gary Drake, and Paul and Susan Roy of Great Britain.

Bred by Bill Entenmann’s Timber Bay Farms, Sarava, who was by Wild Again-Rhythm of Life, by Deputy Minister, was foaled in Kentucky on March 2, 1999.

Sarava, which is a Brazilian greeting that means “good luck,” began his racing career in Europe in 2001 as a 2-year old, where he ran three times, but never finished in the money.

The beautiful dark bay stallion was then sent to back to the United States and won his first start there in a maiden claiming race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 21, 2001 under trainer Burk Kessinger. He only ran one more time that year, where he finished second in an allowance race at Turfway Park.

He returned to the track in 2002 as a 3-year old with a new trainer, Ken McPeek, and after a minor injury kept him off the Derby trail, scored the best accomplishments of his career.

Following two second place finishes in allowance races, he bounced back and won the Sir Barton Stakes (Listed) on the Preakness Day undercard at Pimlico on May 18 for his first stakes victory.

His next race, however, is the one that put him into the history books when he upset the field and won the 134th running of the Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 8. Ridden masterfully by Hall of Fame Jockey Edgar Prado, Sarava, who went off at 70-1 odds, battled Medaglia D’Oro throughout the race after War Emblem, who was attempting to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, stumbled at the start.

Guided by Prado, Sarava took the lead coming out of the final turn, and at the wire got the win by a half-length over Medaglia D’Oro to become the longest shot ever to win the Belmont Stakes. He paid $142.50, $50.00, and $22.40. War Emblem, who would also become a retiree at Old Friends, finished eighth.

In 2005, as a 5-year old, and with a new trainer, Bob Baffert, Sarava finished sixth in an allowance optional claiming race at Del Mar. Following that race, he suffered a serious bout of colic and did not race the rest of the year.

He did return to the track in 2006 as a 5-year old, but was never the same. In the seven races he ran that year, he never finished in the money. He was retired following his last race on Aug. 22 where he finished fifth in the Saratoga Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G2) at Saratoga.

Sarava concluded his racing career with a record of three wins, three seconds, and $773,832 in earnings in 17 starts.

He began his stud career in 2005 at Cloverleaf Farms in Florida, and then was moved to Cloverleaf Farm in Kentucky in 2007. In 2008, he was sent to Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Fla. for the remainder of his stud career. His best progeny included stakes-winner, Gladding, as well as stakes-place runners Gorgeous Melody, Star of Sarava, and Sarava’s Dancer.

Sarava was pensioned in 2012 and, following conversations between then-Midway, Ky. Mayor Tom Bozarth and co-owners, Gary Drake, and Paul and Susan Roy, the then 13-year old stallion was donated to Old Friends and arrived at the farm on Sept. 29, 2012.

“It’s a sad day for our family and friends,” said owner Gary Drake when he heard the news. “We’ve all been Sarava fans since we met him in 2001. When you get into horse racing, you hope to have the opportunity to be involved with a horse like this. I mean it’s cliche, but people say it all the time, they (the horses) take you places you would never go otherwise, and certainly Sarava did that for us.

“He was a, a cool horse, a lot of fun to be around,” Drake continued. “And, he lived half of his life at Old Friends and was the beneficiary of having all of those visitors who came by his paddock to visit him and fed him carrots. He lived a good life there. I wish he was going to be around longer, but that’s the life with horses.”

“As everybody knows, he gave me one of the biggest thrills of my career,” said Edgar Prado, Sarava’s jockey in the Belmont. “When I moved to New York, he gave me my first Triple Crown winner. Everybody will remember him, not only for that, but as one of the biggest longshots in history to win the race.

“I was glad to see him recently at Old Friends,” Prado continued. “But I think the most important thing is that in the last years of his life, he’s spent quality time among so many good people that showed him love, showed him respect and admiration for what he has done for horse racing. It’s tough to see him go, but I think he felt the love from all the staff at Old Friends who did a super job.”

Added Michael Blowen, President and founder of Old Friends, “Sarava attracted so many fans to Old Friends. Most recently, a horse player said he bought a condo in Ft. Myers with his winnings from that race. But, to us, he was a lot more than the longest shot in the history of the Belmont Stakes who defeated fellow Old Friends retiree, War Emblem. He was proud, independent and, in his way, very lovable. And you can’t buy that … even at $142.50. We thank owner Gary Drake and friend Tom Bozarth for allowing us to care for Sarava for more than a decade.”

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