posted by Kalina on Apr 29

Pioneerof the Nile wins the Santa Anita Derby

Pioneerof the Nile wins the Santa Anita Derby

He gallops effortlessly over the track, working five furlongs in 1:01. It is hard to believe that this Zayat Stables homebred was a sickly foal, who almost didn’t make it. Sobhy Sonbol explains the story of this Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) contender.

“He got colic, and he had surgery a few weeks after he was born,” says Sonbol, who serves as the vice president of Zayat Stables. “He almost died, and then he had to have another operation a few months later. He had some adhesions in there from the first surgery, so they had to go back in there again.”

Pioneerof the Nile was consigned by Darby Dan Farm to the 2006 Keeneland November breeding stock sale, but the son of Empire Maker was scratched. Hill ‘n’ Dales Sales Agency, as agent, offered the colt the following year at the Keeneland September yearling sale, but Sonbol, acting on behalf of Ahmed Zayat, Zayat Stable’s owner, bought back Pioneerof the Nile for $290,000.

“Everybody says these horses that go through colic surgery, it takes them awhile until they get back, and they told me he was going to be late (in developing),” says Sonbol. “We put him in the Keeneland yearling sale and at that point, Mr. Zayat had never seen him. When he saw him at the sale, he said, ‘What the hell are we putting that horse in the sale for; buy him back,’ so I kept on bidding until I bought him back.”

Though Sonbol still had some concerns about the surgeries’ lingering effects, Pioneerof the Nile showed early precociousness that chased those worries away.

“The last workout on the farm before he left for the racetrack, he worked with another horse,” Sonbol said. “You usually try to keep them together, and they go a quarter (mile) in about :24 because you don’t want to ask them to go too fast. But he just dusted the other horse that was right next to him. That was kind of the first time he had shown a separation between himself and the other horses.

“Then, when he was up at Saratoga, he was my first 2-year-old to be ready (to run) even though everybody had told me those belly surgeries would hinder his progress a little bit. He’s also a May foal and by Empire Maker, so he wasn’t supposed to be an early horse.”

Pioneerof the Nile broke his maiden in his second career start, and became one of the top 2-year-olds in 2008. He won the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) and finished third in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I). This year he has placed in all three of his starts so far, capturing the Robert B. Lewis (gr. II) and San Felipe (gr. II) Stakes along with the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).

The colt, who had two colic surgeries as a foal, has earned $1,234,200 so far.

According to Sonbol, “He’s probably one of the best horses we’ve ever had, and he might be one of the best ones that we ever will have.”

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