On the morning of July 8, the word "irreplaceable" kept bouncing around the head of Old Friends Thoroughbred retirement center's founder Michael Blowen as he thought about the previous night's death of prominent Central Kentucky veterinarian Doug Byars, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM.

While the word touched on Blowen's feelings in losing a close friend, the main reason it filled his head on this Tuesday morning was the void Byars' death would leave for the retired Thoroughbreds that call Old Friends home.

"These horses are really going to miss him," Blowen said. "He was the best."

Family and friends said Byars, age 70, died the evening of July 7 at his Georgetown, Kentucky home.

In 1983 Byars started at Hagyard-Davidson-McGee Associates, now the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, where he would work for 25 years, serving as head of equine medicine. As an internal medicine specialist, he was on the front line in dealing with mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS) when it struck Central Kentucky in 2001-02.

"He's one of the pioneers in equine vet medicine," said Hagyard's Dave Fishback, DVM. "He's one of the first people to totally focus on the horse as far as internal medicine."

Byars would help launch Hagyard's laboratory and help shape the current facility on Iron Works Pike in Lexington.

"He's one of the most respected equine internal specialists in the world," Fishback said. "I know Coolmore flew him to Ireland numerous times when they had an ailing horse."

Byars worked or had worked on numerous horse industry councils an