Preakness Stakes Profile: Pioneerof The Nile
by Trevor Whenham - 05/11/2009
Pioneerof The Nile
Last race: Pioneerof The Nile was second in the Kentucky Derby. Passing my seats at the 1/8 pole he was in the lead and looked like he was going to win, but then Mine That Bird made his incredible move from out of nowhere. He was bumped out of the gate, and had to be held back tightly around the first turn. He settled nicely, moved well off the final turn, and then held off two horses in a tough stretch duel to narrowly finish second. He was fading somewhat at the end, so the shorter distance of the Preakness should benefit him.
Career highlights: The three year old class in California was stronger than usual this year, and Pioneerof The Nile emerged at the top of it. After a couple of disappointing stakes performances as a two year old he got his first graded stakes win in the CashCall Futurity late in December against a strong field that included I Want Revenge and Chocolate Candy. That started an undefeated streak that lasted all the way to Kentucky, with wins in the Robert B. Lewis, the San Felipe, and the Santa Anita Derby.
Jockey: Garrett Gomez. If you want to know how hard it is to win a Triple Crown race, you need look no further than Gomez. He's the best jockey in North America right now, leading the country in earnings the last three years, and winning the Eclipse Award as top jockey the last two. He has won eight Breeders' Cup races in the last four years, including four last year. The only thing he doesn't have is a Triple Crown win. He's had his chances, but never gotten the breaks. That's going to change at some point, and this horse is in very good hands.
Trainer: Bob Baffert. Baffert is among the most colorful characters in a sport full of them. He's also darned good. He has seven Breeders' Cup wins, two Dubai World Cup titles, and he's won eight Triple Crown races including four wins in the Preakness. All of that has happened since he burst onto the national scene in 1996. Having Baffert train a horse is by no means a guarantee of success, but you know for certain that the horse will be ready and the jockey will be well prepared.
Breeding: His sire, Empire Maker, went into the 2003 Kentucky Derby as the heavy favorite, but he wound up finishing second behind Funny Cide. After skipping the Preakness, he came back in the Belmont and ended Funny Cide's Triple Crown bid with a big win. Empire Maker's sire, Unbridled, won the Kentucky Derby in 1990. Pioneerof The Nile has Triple Crown success in his blood.
Running style: Pioneerof The Nile is happiest when he is able to settle just off the pace before making a move down the stretch. What we learned about the horse in the prep season, though, is that he has a real ability to adapt to less-than-ideal situations. His last two prep races featured strange pace scenarios that left him scrambling to pull out a win. That's a sign of real class.
Preakness prognosis: If Rachel Alexandra doesn't run in the Preakness then Pioneerof The Nile would likely be made the favorite. He'd be very deserving. Time and again he has shown his ability, and he handled the transition to dirt for the first time in the Derby well. The distance will work well for him, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him win in Baltimore. I'll have win bets on him, and he'll be all over my exotics as well. He's also the best shot of taking out the super filly if she does enter.