01/16/2016 6:07PM

Leading Kentucky sires: Pioneerof the Nile


◗ Leading active Kentucky general sire by average earnings

The group of 12 horses to win the Triple Crown is about as exclusive as a club gets in any sport. Just as select is the group of 12 horses that sired them.

Pioneerof the Nile became the newest member of that group on a June afternoon in New York when his champion offspring American Pharoah crossed the finish line unchallenged in the Belmont Stakes to sweep the series of classic races.

It would have been an unforgettable year for Pioneerof the Nile had he stopped there, but American Pharoah also chalked up wins in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic before calling it a career. American Pharoah almost certainly will be named Horse of the Year.

American Pharoah’s single-year North American record earnings of $8,288,800 helped propel Pioneerof the Nile to the top of North America’s active sire list by average progeny earnings, with his 120 runners making an average of $96,506 in 2015.

He finished second overall behind the pensioned A.P. Indy, whose 49 runners banked an average of $100,360 last year.

Pioneerof the Nile’s $11,580,716 in combined progeny earnings also placed him third on the 2015 Kentucky general sire list, behind Tapit and Medaglia d’Oro.

Pioneerof the Nile will stand his seventh season at stud in 2016, residing at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., with an advertised fee of $125,000. The fee more than doubled his rate of $60,000 in 2015, and is more than six times his 2014 fee of $20,000.

“You never expect to have a horse at the farm that’s the sire of a Triple Crown winner,” said Elliott Walden, WinStar’s president and CEO. “It’s exciting for WinStar and all the employees, and following American Pharoah’s progress right along was really special. Then, to have it with a horse that’s 9 years old and has his stud career in front of him was really exciting.”

Though American Pharoah was clearly the standout runner for Pioneerof the Nile in 2015, his body of runners proved that the Triple Crown winner was no fluke, with Grade 1-placed runners on both dirt and turf last year.

Leading the charge was Midnight Storm, winner of the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap and runner-up in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, both on turf. Also performing well on the grass was Grade 2-placed Courtier, who won the $206,000 Centaur Stakes at Indiana Grand.

Pioneerof the Nile’s leading dirt runners included Grade 1-placed stakes winner Catch My Drift, stakes winners Eighth Wonder and Cash Control, Grade 2-placed Jojo Warrior, and Grade 3-placed Pioneerof the West.

Though still a relatively young stallion – his 2-year-olds of 2016 will be his fourth crop of racing age – Pioneerof the Nile is already beginning to branch out into the next phase of his career, where he must prove himself as a sire of sires and producers.

American Pharoah will headline the class of incoming stallions for the 2016 breeding season, standing at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., for $200,000. That price marks the highest entry point for a stallion since Horse of the Year Ghostzapper commanded the same amount in 2006.

Walden said he expected the number and quality of Pioneerof the Nile offspring to enter the breeding pool will rise exponentially in the coming years as the makeup of his book evolves.

“The next step is really the last two years,” Walden said. “Since his horses hit the racetrack, his books have gotten really good. For the first four years of his stallion career, he bred the dams of four Grade 1 winners. In the last two years, he’s bred 25 mares that were Grade 1 winners themselves or dams of Grade 1 winners. He had 13 mares in those four years that were either graded winners themselves or graded producers, and it was over 60 last year alone.

“His future is bright. The mare quality is improved. It’s going to be exciting to see what he does with the next phase of his stallion career and the mares that he has.”

Though pensioned since 2011, A.P. Indy has carried one of the all-time great careers at stud into his 18th and final crop, led by Eclipse Award finalist Honor Code, whose 2015 résumé featured wins in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and Whitney Stakes, and a third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

A.P. Indy, a 27-year-old son of Seattle Slew, stood his entire career at Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky., and is living out his retirement in the farm’s stallion facility.