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Last year’s champion 2-year-old colt, American Pharoah, returned to racing this season with an easy victory in Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes on March 14. Skipping over the muddy surface with power and ease, American Pharoah proved that he was as much at home on an off track as he had proven when racing on a fast one.

The bay son of Pioneerof the Nile is the most precocious of his sire’s offspring to date. Unbeaten in three starts since finishing fifth in his début in 2014, American Pharoah won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and Frontrunner in his juvenile season.

With his enthusiasm and good health evident in the Rebel, American Pharoah is one of the easy choices for this season’s classics. The colt is the latest example of the classic inclinations of this branch of Mr. Prospector and further evidence of Fappiano’s importance to the breed.

Fappiano’s best son on the track and at stud was Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, who also ran second in the Preakness and sired winners of all three Triple Crown races.

Of his classic-winning sons, Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker was the most successful at stud and sired a pair of classic-placed colts in Pioneerof the Nile and Bodemeister.

A good 2-year-old, Pioneerof the Nile improved immensely at 3, as he was growing into his big frame, and on Derby Day, he was a respectable second to Mine That Bird, who rocketed up the rail to win on an off track. Mine That Bird is a gelded son of Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, who is by Unbridled’s Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone.

That proved the end of Pioneerof the Nile’s successful racing, but victories in the Robert Lewis, San Felipe, and Santa Anita Derby earned him a spot at stud. The big colt retired to stand at Vinery, then transferred to WinStar at the end of 2012 as Vinery shut down its operations and sold.

Pioneerof the Nile had his first racers in 2013, and they included graded stakes winner Cairo Prince, who became a well-regarded classic prospect last year. Another colt from the sire’s first crop named Social Inclusion became a second talking horse for the classics last spring, eventually placing third in the Preakness.

Then along came American Pharoah.

As exciting as his initial stakes winners had proved, getting a top juvenile was another dimension to Pioneerof the Nile, and breeders responded.

Darren Fox at WinStar said, “The horse has been booked full since November, and he’ll have a book in the 120s.”

Fox said, “Breeders’ response is what you’d expect, even at the increased fee,” which is $60,000 on stand and nurse terms for 2015.

Those fees are a hefty income stream for the farm and other equity holders in the stallion. That makes Pioneerof the Nile popular with everyone, and Fox said that “standing 16.3 and having scope and quality, Pioneer is a nearly ideal stallion from a stallion manager’s point of view. He’s a horse who is easy to match on pedigree and physique, and Unbridled is such a distinct branch of Mr. Prospector that you can even use more of that line.”

The stallion’s only inbreeding within five generations is Northern Dancer 5×5, although Raise a Native is also present 6×5. In the most basic pedigree terms, American Pharoah is Mr. Prospector crossed onto Northern Dancer through a mare descending from that great sire’s grandson Storm Cat.

Fox noted that “Pioneer, being by an Unbridled-line stallion out of a mare by the Argentine-bred Lord at War, he has a pretty open pedigree for the main sire lines, and that opens up more mares for his book and makes him easier to mate. We get good representation from Storm Cat-line mares, A.P. Indy mares, and others looking for a good classic cross.”

American Pharoah is out of the nonwinner Littleprincessemma, by the Storm Cat stallion Yankee Gentleman. The dam sold for $135,000 as a weanling at Keeneland November in 2006, with Ben McElroy signing as agent. The following year, she sold for $250,000 at Keeneland September to Zayat Stables. After breeding a G1 winner from the mare, Zayat sold her last November for $2.1 million at Fasig-Tipton. Summer Wind Farm was the buyer, and the mare produced a full brother to the champion this year.

The prospects for the mare and all her offspring appear bright as American Pharoah battles toward the classics.

*This post was first published last week at Paulick Report.

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