Empire Maker (Unbridled–Toussaud, by El Gran Senor), sire of multiple champion Royal Delta and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah's sire Pioneerof the Nile, has been repatriated from Japan and will stand the 2016 breeding season at Antony Beck's Gainesway in Lexington. The 15-year-old stallion, who was sold to Japanese interests in 2010, will stand at Gainesway in an equal partnership with the Solari family's Don Alberto Corporation.
“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 I winner Empire Maker, who was the leading North American Sire in 2012 by worldwide earnings.”
Liliana Solari, honorary President of Bethia, the parent company of Don Alberto, added, “This move clearly carries forward the vision of my father, the founding horseman of the family, who always encouraged us to seek out the best of everything.”
Empire Maker, a son of GI Kentucky Derby and GI Breeders' Cup Classic winner Unbridled, is out of broodmare of the year Toussaud. He is a half-brother to Grade I winners Chester House (Mr. Prospector), Honest Lady (Seattle Slew)–the dam of First Defence–and Chiselling (Woodman).
“Empire Maker's pedigree is clearly one of the best in the world and his influence as a sire is enormous,” said Beck. “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.”
Campaigned by his breeder Juddmonte Farms, Empire Maker won the 2003 GI Belmont S., GI Florida Derby and GI Wood Memorial. He was also second in that year's GI Kentucky Derby. He retired to Juddmonte in 2004.
Empire Maker's roster of American Grade I winners is led by two-time GI Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Royal Delta. Royal Delta, a six-time Grade I winner during her racing career, retired with earnings over $4.8 million. She was named champion 3-year-old filly of 2011 and resumed her racing career after selling to Besilu Stables for $8.5 million at the Keeneland November sale to be named champion older mare of 2012 and again in 2013.
Empire Maker is also the sire of two-time Grade I winner Pioneerof the Nile, who is the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, as well as four-time Grade I winner Emollient. Emollient is one of four fillies by the sire to win Keeneland's GI Juddmonte Spinster S. The stallion has also been represented by Grade I-winning millionaires Bodemeister, Mushka, Acoma and Grace Hall.
The leading third-crop sire in 2009, he ranked 17th on the General Sire list with three Grade I winners, including Mushka. In 2011, Empire Maker ranked eighth on the General Sire list with over $7 million in progeny earnings and 11 stakes winners, including Grace Hall. In 2012, Empire Maker had more than $10 million in progeny earnings on the North American General Sire list and was represented by 13 stakes winners, three of them Grade I winners, including Bodemeister. Bodemeister is currently the leading first-crop sire of yearlings, with 64 selling for an average of $191,125.
Beck Looks to Build Empire
Antony Beck's Gainesway, which already stands leading sire Tapit, added another standout to its stallion roster with the repatriation of Empire Maker.
“I'm so thrilled that he's coming back,” Beck said of Empire Maker. “I think like most people, I was surprised that, at his stature and level of success, he left the U.S. in the first place. He was tremendously successful here. And ever since he left, a lot of breeders and farms wanted to see him return, including myself. I think a lot of people felt he was better placed in the U.S. than anywhere else. He's an amazing stallion, a true Classic stallion. He gets 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, older horses. He did everything. He sired horses of the highest quality.”
Empire Maker's return to the Bluegrass marks Gainesway's first partnership with the Solari family's Don Alberto Corporation. Don Alberto burst onto the U.S. sales scene two years ago, purchasing the former 440-acre Vinery Farm in Lexington before going on a high-profile buying spree at the 2013 November breeding stock sales.
“It is our first time partnering with them,” Beck confirmed. “I just met them very recently. They've been in the horse business for three generations in Chile, and know the business very, very well. They're wonderful people, and we're very excited about the future.”
Beck is no stranger to Empire Maker's sire, Unbridled. The 1990 GI Kentucky Derby winner began his stud career at Gainesway in 1992.
“Unbridled was a brilliant racehorse, a Derby winner, and winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic at three,” Beck said. “At four, he beat [champion sprinter] Housebuster over a sprint distance. He had immense talent and versatility as a racehorse, and then as a sire. To be able to bring back his best son is very special to us.”
Beck continued, “One of the reasons we bought Tapit was that he was out of an Unbridled mare [Tap Your Heels], and he represents just unbelievable blood. Empire Maker is easily the best-bred son of Unbridled, and is probably the best-performing son of Unbridled. Unbridled died quite young, yet was able to come up with many, many great superstars.”
Like Tapit, Empire Maker's book will be limited.
“We'll limit him to 135 mares, same as Tapit,” Beck said. “We feel that's a good size to give a stallion good representation, but to not stress his libido. It also means he won't have too many yearlings in the public market. We hope to stand him for many years to come, and that's what we're focused on.”
Gainesway, which bred and sold the $2.1-million sale topper by its resident Tapit at the recent Keeneland September sale, will also be support its newest stallion.
“Very definitely, we'll buy some very good mares to support Empire Maker,” Beck said. “We have over 80 mares on the farm now, so a lot of those will be bred to him, as well. But if I can breed 25 mares to Empire Maker, I'd be thrilled. Those bloodlines are genuinely unique. You look at his pedigree and it's as good as you can get. Talk about blue blood. John Nerud is arguably one of the best horsemen ever in North America, and this is a combination of his blood, including Fappiano, Dr. Fager, and In Reality. Top and bottom, it's John Nerud's amazing assembly of genetics.”
Beck acknowledged Gainesway now has a formidable duo leading its stallion roster.
“It's a real honor to be standing both Empire Maker and Tapit at Gainesway,” he said. “Our philosophy is to try and do better every year, and I would like Gainesway to remain an elite, boutique operation, focusing on quality over quantity.”