Sire of Triple Crown winner dies suddenly after breeding session

Fans react to American Pharoah’s historic win

Fans at Keeneland in Lexington reacted to American Pharoah's historic win in the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2015.
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Fans at Keeneland in Lexington reacted to American Pharoah's historic win in the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2015.

Pioneerof the Nile, sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, died unexpectedly Monday, according to WinStar Farm.

The 13-year-old champion sire bred a mare Monday morning and “started acting uncomfortable once he was back in his stall,” a release from the farm said.

He died en route to the clinic.

“We are all extremely saddened by the loss of Pioneerof the Nile,” WinStar Farm’s Elliott Walden said. “He was a superior physical specimen, a Triple Crown sire, and a unique personality. All of us at WinStar are heartbroken.”

The son of Empire Maker out of Star of Goshen by Lord at War had two Grade 1 wins before finishing second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby to Mine that Bird and accumulated more than $1.6 million in race earnings.

And his career as a stallion has been remarkable. Pioneerof the Nile is the sire of two 2-year-old male Eclipse Award winners and two Breeders’ Cup winners from his first four crops to race, including Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Classic Empire, and has been “a leading sire of his generation for the past three years, including No. 1 sixth-crop cumulative sire in every category: Grade 1 winners, G1 horses, graded stakes winners, black type winners, earnings, etc.,” according to WinStar.

His stud fee of $110,000 was the highest price per live foal listed in WinStar’s stallion stable. WinStar records his 2018 yearlings sold for an average of $353,952, while his 2018 weanlings averaged $617,500, including a $1,900,000 weanling at Fasig-Tipton November sale, the highest-priced weanling ever sold at that sale. In all, 46 of Pioneerof the Nile’s sales progeny brought $500,000 or higher, according to the WinStar website.

Pioneerof the Nile’s fee ranked eighth among American stallions whose prices are listed, according to American Pharoah’s fee at Coolmore Ashford Stud is listed as private. Justify, the most recent Triple Crown winner, lists for $150,000 per live foal, and his stallion career is just beginning.

Owner Ahmed Zayat was among the first to react to the news of Pioneerof the Nile’s death with a statement on Twitter.

“Incredibly shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of my Pioneer of the Nile,” Zayat tweeted. “He was not only my first homebred he was one of my GREATEST. He was the proud father of American Pharoah and a true sire of sires. The POTN will be greatly missed by all of us here at Zayat Stables. … and by all of the racing and breeding world. Thank you to Bob Baffert for training him, thank you to Winstar Farm for standing him and caring for him these last years. He is gone way too soon, but never to be forgotten. It truly does take a Pioneer. My sweet boy.”