Dave’s Friend, one of the nation’s best sprinters of the 1980s who retired in 1986 as the richest Maryland-bred runner of all time, earned the majority of his $1,079,915 in sprint competition – an amazing feat when the richest sprint race he won had a purse of $100,000.
He was bred by Bob Beall, who initially trained him for wife Thelma until selling the gelding to Eclipse Award-winning owner John Franks in the spring of 1981. For most of the remainder of his career, Dave’s Friend was trained by Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg.
A son of Beall’s own stallion Friend’s Choice, out of Duc’s Tina, by Duc de Fer, Dave’s Friend was rejected by a yearling sale’s selection committee due to his modest pedigree and an injured eye. He didn't make his first start until age 3 in 1978, but went on to race nine years while making 76 starts and retired at age 11 with 35 victories, 16 seconds and eight thirds.
In his first 16 starts, Dave’s Friend ran at a mile or more eight times, was never worse than fourth, and counted among his stakes efforts a second in the Grade 1 Monmouth Invitational (now known as the Haskell).
Dave’s Friend won 17 stakes at nine different tracks during his career, 15 of the wins at a distance less than a mile. During his Maryland-bred Horse of the Year season in 1980, when he was also named champion older male, he won or placed in 13 of 14 starts, all at a mile or less, set two track records, won five stakes, four in New York and all at 6 furlongs. He finished second in the Eclipse Award balloting to Plugged Nickle, and is considered by many as one of the best horses never to be honored an Eclipse Award.
Twice in his career Dave’s Friend was sidelined by major injuries, as well as quarter cracks, but returned to win in stakes company. The richest races he won were back-to-back runnings, at ages 8 and 9, of the $100,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park. The second score, coming at the expense of that year’s Eclipse Award-winning sprinter Eillo, was his final added-money victory and was run in a time a full second faster than he won it the year before.
Dave’s Friend died on June 14, 2006, at the late John Franks’ farm near Shreveport, La., at the age of 31.