Ahmed Zayat is betting that Bodemeister will finally end his stable’s drought in Triple Crown races, even after the colt lost the Kentucky Derby in the final sixteenth of a mile.
Zayat, who founded his racing group in 2005, has had three runners-up in series events in the past four years, with Pioneerof The Nile, Nehro and Bodemeister. His 2010 Kentucky Derby favorite, Eskendereya, was scratched in the week before the race.
Bodemeister, a speed horse which was the morning line favorite in the Derby two weeks ago, was made the 8-5 favorite in the 11-horse Preakness Stakes tomorrow at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The second favorite is Derby winner I’ll Have Another, who caught Zayat’s colt in the final 16th of a mile at Churchill Downs. The Preakness is 1 3/16 miles, a 16th shorter than the Derby.
“It’s a very tall order,” Zayat said in a telephone interview. “The horse ran a brilliant race in the Derby only to have a heartbreaking defeat. He went 1 1/4 miles at this unbelievable speed only to hold onto second. I don’t know whether to be sad or happy.”
The colt covered the opening half mile in 45.39 seconds, the fifth-fastest time in the Derby’s history. His six furlongs in 1:09.80 and mile in 1:35.19 both were the fourth-fastest times, according to Churchill Downs officials.
Zayat said there won’t be any change in strategy for Bodemeister. Jockey Mike Smith, who won the 1993 Preakness aboard Prairie Bayou, will ride him again.
“If we try to take him out of his element, I don’t think that’s good,” Zayat said. “He’s a very fast horse.”
Zayat said Bodemeister bounced back from his speedy charge in the Derby.
‘Ready to Run’
“At this junction, I let the horse tell us if he’s ready to run,” Zayat said. “He probably wants redemption.”
Even though his horses have never won the Derby, Preakness or Belmont Stakes, Zayat’s stables have been among the top five in earnings since 2007. In 2008, it topped the list with 115 wins in 740 starts for $6.9 million. This year, Zayat is ranked third with 23 wins in 90 starts and $1.6 million in earnings.
Zayat, 49, was the former owner of Al Ahram Beverage Co., which packaged and sold beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks and soft drinks in the Middle East. He privatized Egypt’s national brewery into the largest beverage manufacturer and distributor in the Middle East before selling it to Heineken International for $280 million.
Today, he is the largest shareholder in Misr Glass Manufacturing, the biggest producer of glass containers in Egypt, as well as running his stables with 125 horses.
Zayat purchased Bodemeister for $260,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland, Kentucky, sales. In naming the colt, he wanted to pay tribute to his trainer Bob Baffert, who had always refused offers to name the horses after his family, fearing it would jinx them. He agreed to allow Zayat to name the horse after his 7-year-old son, Bode.
Zayat sold a minority share in Bodemeister to Michel and Tiffany Moreno, owners of Southern Equine Stables, who set their sights on the horse after he won the Arkansas Derby by 9 1/2 lengths.
“I got an incredible price that one could not say no to,” Zayat said, declining to disclose it. “By selling a minority interest, the colt got to stay under my management, my trainer, my stables.”
Zayat said he got many offers for the colt and favored Moreno because he has high-quality broodmares for Bodemeister when the colt retires from racing.
In establishing his stables, Moreno, the chief executive officer of Dynamic Service International LLC of Lafayette, Louisiana, paid $14 million for Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour, who produced Belmont Stakes winners Jazil (2006) and Rags to Riches (2007).
“It’s the dream of any horse owner to see the progeny of his colt go on,” Zayat said.
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