By Sid Fernando
WinStar Farm’s Pioneerof the Nile has impeccable timing. With the Keeneland September yearling sale looming next week, the son of Empire Maker did what all consignors of his 33 sons and daughters hoped he’d do: catch fire. And how! Yesterday, his two-year-old son American Pharoah won the G1 Del Mar Futurity to cap an amazing run for Pioneerof the Nile at Del Mar that saw his first-crop three-year-olds Jojo Warrior and Midnight Storm win graded races on August 31.
American Pharoah and Jojo Warrior are homebreds for Zayat Stable and are trained by Bob Baffert, who also trained Zayat homebred Pioneerof the Nile—the first SW bred by Zayat. Jack Werk wrote about Pioneerof the Nile and his sire in this space back on December 24, 2008, and here he noted this after speaking to Baffert in the aftermath of the colt’s victory in the G1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park:
Pioneerof 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, Pioneerof 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, Pioneerof the Nile was under a sustained drive from a long ways out, and this particular ability has been the hallmark of superior synthetic runners.
Baffert was correct about Pioneerof the Nile’s ability to handle dirt. The colt ran second in the Kentucky Derby on his first try over the surface. Always considered a staying type, he’d made his debut at two at Saratoga on August 4 for Bill Mott at 1 1/16 miles on turf, finishing fourth. Wheeled back 21 days later over the same trip and course, Pioneerof the Nile won with an off-the-pace effort that indicated he’d relish racing over the classic distances at three, though dirt wasn’t in the picture at that time.
Mott next ran him in the G1 Lane’s End Futurity at 1 1/16 miles over the all-weather course at Keeneland on October 4, where the colt was third after a long drive from far back. Next came the G1 Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles at Oak Tree at Santa Anita on AW. Baffert won the race with Midshipman, and Mott lost Pioneerof the Nile, who was fifth, to Baffert, who won the CashCall next out with his new star.
The following spring, Baffert won the G2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, G2 San Felipe Stakes, and the G1 Santa Anita Derby with the colt before the second-place finish in the Derby and an unplaced effort in the Preakness. Shipped back to California, the colt was reportedly training well but a tendon injury sent him to the sidelines and eventually to stud in 2010 at Vinery with a record of five wins from 10 starts and $1.6 million in earnings. He has since been relocated to WinStar.
Pioneerof the Nile’s first crop of three-year-olds made quite a bit of noise early this winter and spring on the classics trail. First there was Cairo Prince, who’d won the G2 Nashua Stakes over a mile at two and then took the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at 1 1/16 miles to become the early favorite for the Florida Derby. So highly was he considered that Godolphin came over and bought a piece of him. A week after the Holy Bull, Pioneerof the Nile’s Vinceremos won the G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. And then the stallion’s Social Inclusion arrived on the scene in a big way, defeating the G2 Remsen winner and highly regarded Honor Code in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Gulfstream by 10 lengths. Immediately the offers came in for the inexperienced colt, one of them for $2.5 million for a half interest. Later it was reported that offers valuing Social Inclusion at $8 million had been tendered and rejected.
Social Inclusion was rushed into the big leagues soon after to make the classics, raced well, but got fried along the way and is now reportedly recuperating from a tendon injury like the one that stopped his sire. Social Inclusion did place in the G1 Wood Memorial, G1 Preakness, and G2 Woody Stephens Stakes, although he’s yet to win a stakes race. But he is still probably his sire’s best runner, unless American Pharoah, G2 Del Mar Derby winner Midnight Storm, or someone else—and there will be others—-shows otherwise.
Yearling buyers at Keeneland should be inspired.
Click here to view American Pharoah’s pedigree.
Click here to view G2 Del Mar Derby winner Midnight Storm’s pedigree.
Click here to view G3 Torrey Pines winner Jojo Warrior’s pedigree.
Click here to view G2 Holy Bull winner Cairo Prince’s pedigree.
Click here to view G3 Sam F. Davis winner Vinceremos’s pedigree.