Ahmed Zayat, owner of Pioneerof the Nile

Ahmed Zayat, owner of Pioneerof the Nile

Anne M. Eberhardt

Zayat Reconsiders; Won't Keep Rachel Out

After being besieged with unfavorable comments regarding his earlier decision to enter enough horses to prevent Rachel Alexandra from running in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Ahmed Zayat, owner of Pioneerof the Nile, said on TVG that he has decided to reconsider and will not enter any other horses.


Zayat said he had been contacted by Mine That Bird’s co-owner Mark Allen informing him he will be entering another horse in the second leg of the Triple Crown in order to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the race, and asked Zayat to join him, which he initially agreed to do.


Zayat had earlier told HRTV: "I got a phone call earlier today that I wasn't familiar with the phone number of that particular person, and that person kept calling and, lo and behold, it was the owner of the Derby winner, Mine That Bird, and he said, 'Mr. Zayat, you don't know me, I'm Mark Allen. Listen I have a request for you. I think this race is between me and you. You'd have been the favorite if Rachel Alexandra is not in the field and I'm looking for vindication that my colt was not a fluke and I'm sure you are looking to beat us also. I think this match is between us, it's a rivalry. I'm going to be entering a colt, an A.P. Indy colt, to fill the field. I understand you are the number one owner in number of nominations — 22 colts can you please help us. It's good for the game.'


"His trainer actually got sick. I don't know if you know this, he was on crutches; he actually went back because he has an infection in his leg. (Allen) said, 'Listen, my trainer is gone and I also have my jockey being taken away from me and I don't know if I'm going, even can run in the Preakness like that. I feel like I want to compete in the Triple Crown, I want to have my colt prove himself, you want to prove yourself, can you help me?'"


Zayat also said that he heard from Marylou Whitney that she will enter a horse as well to help promote her stallion Birdstone , the sire of Mine That Bird.


“She is one of the bluebloods of the game, and has done so much for the sport, and because she wanted to showcase their stallion Birdstone, she has instructed trainer D. Wayne Lukas to enter a colt (Luv Gov) in the Preakness," Zayat said on TVG.


“That is the background of what I’ve been through. I’ve reflected on my decision. At first I said I would use my legitimate right to try with owners to fill the field. The two factors were the following. I think the filly is really special. She’s the most beautiful thing. I watched her race in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and it was spectacular. I felt so privileged to see that. Then I see the filly is running in two weeks. I have a colt who competed in the Derby who finished second. I feel I have to come back in two weeks and compete in the second leg and the third leg if I will. She didn’t go through that. She didn’t run in the Derby and lo and behold she changes owners and they decide they want to take a shot in the Preakness.


“Her former owner’s original plan was not to run in the Preakness. He said he had respect for the industry, and that the Triple Crown was to showcase the 3-year-old colts and future stallions. I have never heard of a jockey moving from a Kentucky Derby winner to ride another horse. I find it disrespectful for America’s most coveted race. Considering all these factors, along with what I heard from other owners and breeders, I decided I would do what was in the best interest for all of us. To be honest with you, I’m not playing saint and am not above everything else. I have a vested interest; it was a business decision.


“One other criteria for me, I like playing by the rules. All these colts from the very beginning have had to compete and go through the regimen and tough scheduling and go from one race to another to get graded earnings, and that puts a lot of stress on them. And in all fairness, she did not have to go through all that, and her previous owners did not even bother to nominate her to the Triple Crown, and then someone else comes in and tries to change the name of the game and the rules in the middle of the game and I think that is unfair. I’m not against the filly running against the boys. Who am I to say that? But I am questioning the two-week interval. Why not give her a freshening and run her in the Belmont? Two weeks for a filly. Does our sport need another Eight Belles? We all know what happened to Rags to Riches after her race in the Belmont. We all know what happened to Ruffian. I did not want to have that part of it on my watch.


“Nevertheless, after talking to the president of the Maryland Jockey Club I have decided I don’t want to be viewed as not being a sportsman, so I am happy not to block her for the good of the game. Please understand this is not about me; this is about the industry, and although what is right is not very clear to me I am happy to reconsider my decision for the fans.”


Even with Zayat’s change of heart, Rachel Alexandra still will be excluded if Whitney and Allen go ahead and enter horses, which would put her at No. 15 on the earnings list for the Preakness. She would then need another horse to be withdrawn.