Six years ago, Pioneerof the Nile —a leading juvenile of 2008—served notice that he would be a serious contender on the 2009 Triple Crown trail by overcoming traffic problems to win the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II). He went on to win the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) before finishing second to Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Fast-forward to 2014, and one can say, like father, like son. The best runner to emerge so far from Pioneerof the Nile's first crop, Cairo Prince made virtually everyone's list of the top 10 juvenile males of 2013 after winning the Nashua Stakes (gr. II) in good style and finishing a hard-fought second by a nose to the highly regarded Honor Code in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II). He came back on Jan. 25 in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) and rode a perfect trip into the winner's circle by nearly six lengths. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said the colt has come out of the race in excellent shape, making it plain that anyone else targeting the Florida route to Louisville will have to contend with him.
Racing for Namcook Stables, Paul Braverman, Harvey A. Clarke, and Craig W. Robertson III, Cairo Prince is one of 15 winners to date from the first crop of Pioneerof the Nile, who finished second to Dunkirk on the 2013 freshman sire list. A son of 2002 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Empire Maker out of Star of Goshen, by Lord At War, Pioneerof the Nile represents the Fappiano branch of the Mr. Prospector sire line, which has scored victories in Triple Crown races with Unbridled (Empire Maker's sire), Empire Maker, Real Quiet, Victory Gallop, Red Bullet, Grindstone, Birdstone , and Mine That Bird.
At this time, the regally bred Empire Maker (out of 2002 Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Broodmare of the Year Toussaud) appears to be a leading hope for continuing the line of Unbridled along with champion sprinter Midnight Lute (by Real Quiet). A half brother to the good but short-lived sire Chester House (by Mr. Prospector), Empire Maker was exported to Japan in 2011. As so often seems to be the case, he got hot almost before the ink had dried on the contract; the sire of 18 stakes winners at the time of his sale, he now has 43 to his credit including three-time champion Royal Delta. His brilliant son Bodemeister , runner-up in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), will be a freshman sire of 2016, as will grade III winner Soaring Empire .
Bred by Richard L. Elam and Katherine H. Elam, Cairo Prince is the fourth foal, fourth winner, and third stakes horse out of Holy Bubbette, previously the dam of grade I-placed Nonna Mia (by Empire Maker) and listed stakes-placed Holdin Bullets (by Ghostzapper). Appropriately, Holy Bubbette is a daughter of 1995 Horse of the Year Holy Bull (Great Above—Sharon Brown, by Al Hattab), in whose honor the Triple Crown prep was named.
One of the best racehorses of the 1990s, Holy Bull had a rather offbeat pedigree and perhaps for this reason was not as outstanding a sire as he was a racer. Nonetheless, he has handed on the sire line of 1898 Kentucky Derby winner Plaudit to his son Macho Uno (the champion juvenile male of 2000) and grandson Mucho Macho Man, winner of the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). To date, his daughters have produced 34 stakes winners including the very fast Munnings (Speightstown —La Comete), a multiple grade II-winning sprinter.
A half sister to 1993 Forward Gal Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) winner Sum Runner (by 1981 Belmont Stakes winner Summing), Holy Bubbette proved a nice sprint filly, winning the 2003 Dixie Miss Stakes at Louisiana Downs and the 2004 Whimsical Stakes at Woodbine. She was never tried over routes, and her dam Juliac was unplaced in her only start, leaving her distance capacity as a question mark. On paper, Juliac was more likely to have been a sprinter or miler than a stayer, following the hoof prints of her sire Accipiter. While his sire Damascus stayed very well, as a stallion his influence more closely resembled that of his broodmare sire, the speedy My Babu. Accipiter fell into this pattern, winning the one-mile Withers Stakes (gr. II) and Saranac Stakes (gr. II) before going on to a useful stud career. Adding to the impression that stamina was not likely to have been her long suit, Juliac is out of the Nearctic mare Juliet—twice stakes-placed over sprint distances—and is a half sister to Marauding (by 1959 champion juvenile male Warfare), whose biggest victory came in the 1975 Oil Capitol Handicap (gr. IIIT) at seven furlongs.
The question for the future, then, is which side of his pedigree is dominant in Cairo Prince's makeup. By a Belmont Stakes winner from a mare by a Santa Anita Handicap winner, Pioneerof the Nile was clearly bred to stay classic distances. On the other side, Holy Bull won the Travers Stakes (gr. I) at 10 furlongs in an excellent performance but was probably better at nine furlongs, and the female line appears to tilt distinctly towards speed. In fact the last runner produced by a mare in Cairo Prince's direct female line to win a stakes over 10 furlongs was the great gelding Sarazen, a full brother to the colt's seventh dam, That's That. If Cairo Prince has been fortunate enough to inherit the best of both sides, he will be a formidable contender indeed on this year's road to the Kentucky Derby.