Multiple Grade I winner Empire Maker, a top stallion who sired 12 Grade I winners and had a profound impact on American breeding, died Saturday, January 18 at Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Ky., after a battle with a rare disease that compromised his immune system. He was 20 years old.
Bred and raced by Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farm and trained by Bobby Frankel, Empire Maker was sired by champion Unbridled, out of the Grade I-winning El Gran Senor mare Toussaud. He was the only 3-year-old colt of his generation to win three Grade I races: the Belmont Stakes, Florida Derby, and the Wood Memorial.
Empire Maker began his career at stud in 2004 at Juddmonte Farms in Lexington, Ky., and produced Grade I winners Bodemeister, Royal Delta, and Pioneerof the Nile, among other outstanding runners. In November, 2010, he was sold to the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association and stood at the Shizunai Stallion Station. In 2015, he was repatriated from Japan by Gainesway and Don Alberto, and his first crop back in the U.S. resulted in Grade I winner Eight Rings; at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale, he was represented by a $2 million filly out of Lady Pewitt.
His influence extended to his role as the grandsire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, champion two-year-old Classic Empire, and Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. A significant broodmare sire as well, the Classic winner was Unbridled’s best runner, and has gone on to be his leading sire at stud.
“The passing of Empire Maker will leave a tremendous void not only in the breeding industry as we know it, but in the hearts of all of us who worked with him, every day,” said Antony Beck, the Chief Executive Officer of Gainesway. ”It was a huge honor and privilege to stand Empire Maker at Gainesway with our partners Don Alberto. He was the epitome of class and quality. I have never been involved with a stallion that possessed a better disposition. His impact on the breed has been significant, particularly producing very sound stock. He will be missed by all of us at Gainesway.”
Said Carlos Heller, the owner of Don Alberto, “We are heartbroken that he won’t be with us anymore. He was such a special horse to our family in so many ways and was our first major stallion interest since the establishment of Don Alberto Farm in the U.S. It is a huge loss not only for our family and our friends at Gainesway but also for our breed. We will always remember him as such a generous horse, always giving his best at every stage of his life.
“We can say that he was aptly named and indeed made an empire that keeps growing every day through his progeny. We were fortunate to have been involved in a small part of his life. An incredibly intelligent and kind horse that will be sorely missed by everyone. We hope that his last few crops here in the U.S. will make his name shine even brighter in years to come.. I would like to take a moment and extend my gratitude for all of the outstanding care and support he received at Gainesway. I particularly want to express my appreciation to Antony Beck and his staff at the farm, as well as Dr Slovis and Dr. Javernick.”