09/29/2015 3:49PM

Empire Maker returning to U.S.

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Classic winner Empire Maker, the grandsire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, will return to the United States to stand at Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Ky.

The 15-year-old Unbridled horse had stood in Japan since the 2011 season, after being sold by owner and breeder Juddmonte Farm. Gainesway joined together with Don Alberto Corp to purchase the stallion, and the Japan Bloodstock Breeders' Association approved the sale on Sept. 25, according to Racing Post.

The move creates a major one-two punch in the bloodstock market for Gainesway, which will stand Empire Maker along record-setting Tapit, North America's reigning leading sire.

Chilean-based Don Alberto has spent about $30 million building a Kentucky broodmare band over the past two years, and owns the former Vinery property in Lexington. Gainesway president Antony Beck told Racing Post that he and Don Alberto each plan to support the stallion with about 20 mares in 2016.

"We are building an international organization whose goal is to be truly world class," said Don Alberto principal Carlos Heller. "What better way to expand our base than to partner with Gainesway on three-time Grade 1 Winner Empire Maker?"

Empire Maker scored his biggest career victory in the 2003 Belmont Stakes, denying Funny Cide's Triple Crown bid. He also won the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial and placed in four other stakes, including a runner-up effort in the Kentucky Derby.

Empire Maker, who entered stud in 2004, is the sire of 54 stakes winners, led by three-time champion Royal Delta. He is also the sire of Grade 1 winners Acoma, Bodemeister, Country Star, Emollient, Grace Hall, Icon Project, In Lingerie, Mushka, and Pioneerof the Nile.

Pioneerof the Nile, who stands at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., sired Triple Crown winner American Pharoah from his second crop.

Empire Maker is expected to arrive at Gainesway in time to be shown to breeders attending the Breeders' Cup and November breeding stock sales in Lexington. A 2016 fee will be announced following the Breeders' Cup.

"Empire Maker's pedigree is clearly one of the best in the world and his influence as a sire is enormous," Beck said. "This horse is especially meaningful as we launched the career of his sire, Unbridled, here at Gainesway. We are very pleased to welcome the Heller-Solari family into our family at Gainesway."