As the 2015 Triple Crown winner, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, and sports legend, American Pharoah is a mortal lock for Horse of the Year, etc. Now transferred to his home at Ashford Stud outside Versailles, Ky., the big bay is spending a lot of his time standing in two or three feet of fresh oat straw.
In addition, American Pharoah is available for shows to horse people and breeders twice a day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., when he entertains his public with 15 minutes of posing and looking majestic. During the ongoing Keeneland November sale, a steady stream of fans and avid breeders have been keeping the staff at Ashford busy.
I cannot tell you how many photos of the champion have been taken in the last year, but the volume has to be well into the hundreds of thousands.
The popularity and star power of American Pharoah have had an illuminating effect on the sport, putting it into venues that cover racing only infrequently, when the public’s excitement reminds those publications and media outlets that the easiest way to make money is to give readers and viewers what they want.
In addition to giving our favorite sport a memorable bump in popularity, American Pharoah has been raising the profile of his entire male line. The Triple Crown winner’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile, will stand for $125,000 in 2016, more than double the stallion’s stud fee of 2015, and that would not have happened without American Pharoah.
It would not, however, be fair to say that Pioneerof the Nile is just riding the coattails of his famous son. The striking son of Empire Maker was a top racehorse, winning twice at the top level, and had already elevated his stud fee with the performance of his first crop of racers, which include graded stakes winners Midnight Warrior (Del Mar Derby), Jojo Warrior (Summertime Oaks), Vinceremos (Sam Davis Stakes), and Cairo Prince (Holy Bull Stakes and Nashua Stakes).
The latter, in particular, who entered stud in 2015 at Airdrie Stud, is set to prosper from some of the reflected glory attending to the Triple Crown winner. A striking horse and a high-class prospect for the 2014 classics, Cairo Prince has several things in common with American Pharoah. Chiefly, Cairo Prince was richly talented, with great speed that allowed him to roll a half-mile in :45.76 in the process of winning his début at six furlongs.
Like the other members of this male line, Cairo Prince also stayed two turns well, winning the two stakes above and racing a smashing second to Honor Code (by A.P. Indy) in the Remsen. With the increasingly high profile enjoyed by his sire and American Pharoah, Cairo Prince will get greater attention from breeders, especially since he is now the “value horse” among his near male relatives.
Perhaps the most exciting change related to the “Pharoah Effect” was the repatriation of grandsire Empire Maker (Unbridled). The Belmont Stakes winner was the best racing son of his famous dam Toussaud (dam of four G1 winners) and was one of the trio of classic winners by his Kentucky Derby-winning sire Unbridled.
There was some surprise when the stallion was sold to the Japan Bloodstock Breeders Association, but there may have been even more when Empire Maker was purchased for return to the States by Haras Don Alberto and Gainesway Farm.
A grand-looking stallion with proven ability to get big-race winners and now to sire important stallions, Empire Maker will again be available to American breeders for the 2016 season, when his stud fee will be $100,000 at Gainesway.
Sure to be one of the most popular stallions of 2016, Empire Maker has sired 11 G1 winners, all in the U.S., among his 52 stakes winners to date. The best known of them is undoubtedly champion racemare Royal Delta, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff twice and earner of $4.8 million.
Ironically, Empire Maker has only two colts among his winners at the top level: Pioneerof the Nile and Bodemeister. The latter had not been playing second fiddle to “Pioneer” before American Pharoah came on the scene because Bodemeister’s seasons and young stock have been highly sought. Bodemeister’s first crop will race in 2016 and will be watched with anticipation to see if they show aptitude similar to the early racers by Pioneerof the Nile.
The latter, however, is the star today. As famous as American Pharoah is, the stallion responsible for him is even more revered by breeders, especially because he is a clear classic influence in a time when that is sorely needed.