By Derby winner Unbridled out of Broodmare of the Year Toussaud, by Irish Derby winner El Grand Senor, Empire Maker was bred in the purple and raced to his pedigree. Now he’s starting to make a name for himself at stud.
Pioneer of the Nile, winner of the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park Dec. 20, is by the Belmont Stakes winner out of the Lord at War stakes winner Star of Goshen, who was undefeated in two starts at sprint distances. She is also the dam of the stakes-placed Gone West colt Forefathers, who was undefeated in two starts at 2 and was placed in the Grade 2 Jerome at 3.
By all accounts, Pioneer of the Nile has no sprint speed like his dam or half-brother, but he is a Derby horse for trainer Bob Baffert, whom I spoke to on the Monday morning after the Futurity, Dec. 22. “I’m really high on this colt,” he said. “The big thing with this colt is his tremendous lung capacity, and that’s really important for the Derby. In fact, I’m so high on the sire that we’re sending Indian Blessing and some other top mares to Empire Maker.”
Baffert said he is not concerned with the colt’s ability to handle dirt because “the synthetic at Hollywood is very close to dirt in its texture.”
In the race, Pioneer of the Nile was under a sustained drive from a long ways out, and this particular ability has been the hallmark of superior synthetic runners.
Empire Maker is now the sire of two Grade 1 winners on synthetics, but he also sired four stakes winners on dirt and two on turf from a total of eight stakes winners in two crops. Interestingly, some of his runners have shown a distinct aversion to synthetics, including 2-year-old restricted stakes winner Summer’s Empire (out of Summer Mis, by Summer Squall). The colt raced three times over synthetics without success, then switched to dirt and won three in a row, including a stakes Dec. 13 over 1 1/16 miles. The dam, by the way, was stakes-placed at 2, and the Storm Bird line also nicks well with Unbridled.
Empire Maker, who stands for $75,000 in 2009, is also a half-brother to the late Chester House, who had a phenomenal season in 2008 with 18 stakes winners, including two Breeders’ Cup winners, and this obviously bodes well for the Empire Makers. Chester House had 11 stakes winner on turf this year, with four each on dirt and synthetics (one won on both turf and synthetics).
Also, the A.P. Indy stakes winner Indygo Shiner, produced from Toussaud’s full sister Navarra, had a extraordinary 2008 season as a stallion in Argentina with four Group 1 winners among his six stakes winners, including the winners of the Derby, Oaks, and 2000 Guineas equivalents. He’s now at Hill n’ Dale for 2009 at $7,500 live foal.
Going back even deeper in this pedigree, you will find the outstanding sire Alibhai!
All this points to Empire Maker as a serious stallion in the making!