(edited releasen from Zayat Stables)
Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile, winner of four consecutive graded stakes and second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), has been retired due to a soft tissue injury to his left front leg.
One of the top colts of his generation, the homebred son of Empire Maker, captured in succession the CashCall Futurity (gr. I), Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II), San Felipe Stakes (gr. II), and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), displaying an explosive late closing punch. Even in his runner-up performance in the Kentucky Derby, his first race on conventional dirt, he held off the late runs of graded stakes winners Musket Man and Papa Clem .
“We noticed a little filling in his leg when we took the bandages off and we were hoping he just rapped it,” said trainer Bob Baffert said. “I’m in shock. I was getting so excited about that horse. I loved the way he had been training. He was getting stronger with age and was just starting to mature. He gave us a lot of thrills, going to the Kentucky Derby and running second and winning the Santa Anita Derby. He put me back in the classic spotlight.
"The saddest part is that we hadn’t even seen his full potential," he said. "He was a very game horse, but he had a lot speed for a horse that could go long. I’ve had lot of good horses that didn’t make it as far as he did, so at least we got a chance to see how talented he was.”
Pioneerof the Nile possessed stamina, through his sire and broodmare sire, as well as the speed to shade 1:42 for 1 1/16 miles in the Cashcall Futurity (1:41.95) and Robert B. Lewis (1:41.90) and in his maiden victory (1:41.59) on the grass at Saratoga. He was able to show his talents on all three surfaces – grass, dirt, and synthetic.
“Bob was 100% convinced that he was going to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” Ahmed Zayat said. “That was his target right after the Derby. All he wanted to do was keep him happy and healthy until then.
“He’s not just a horse I happened to see at a sale. We bred him; we lived with him on the farm; we watched him grow. We also have his mother, and we have his sister and his brother. He was a part of our family so to speak, and it’s very hard. The horse certainly doesn’t owe me anything. He gave me so many thrills and so much happiness, but it’s sad not to see his potential realized. I’m grieving, but I’m thankful I had the opportunity to enjoy him. For a split second, turning for home at Churchill Downs, he gave me the thrill that I was going to win the Derby. Thank God I’ll get to see his progeny and that, in a way, would be redeeming in itself.”
His sire, Empire Maker, out of the stakes-winning Star of Goshen, byLord At War, was a classic winner, capturing the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), as well as the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial (gr. I). His dam, Star of Goshen, won the seven-furlong La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs by 11 lengths in 1:22.75, and won her first three career starts by a combined 27 lengths, from 6 1/2 furlongs to one mile.
There have been no discussions yet where he will stand at stud.