Orthodox Jewish Egyptian Wins Kentucky Derby

Here They Come (c) Dave Black www.daveblackphotography.com

Ahmed Zayat, Teaneck New Jersey resident and owner of American Pharoah, won big in the Kentucky Derby this year.

Zayat, 52, has been trying his luck for years, but always only managed to come in second. This year, however, his luck changed as his horse pulled in first.

Pioneerof the Nile in 2009 was beaten by Mine That Bird. Nehro in 2011 was beaten by Animal Kingdom. And Bodemeister in 2012 was outshined by I’ll Have Another.

In 2010, Zayat’s horse Eskenderya was a heavy favorite, until suffering a career-ending leg injury days before the race, according to NJ.com.

It seemed this lucky win was just what Zayat needed, considering he was dealing with immense legal and financial trouble prior to winning the derby. He was facing a lawsuit over $34 million in loans and in 2010 his stables were forced to file for bankruptcy.

Ironically, he is a relatively wealthy man, having previously gained $280 million from Heineken after selling his beer company from his homeland in Egypt.

And although he had seen his wealth diminishing since then, the Kentucky Derby sure changed the prospects for him. He bought his first horse in 2005 and quickly became a unique person in the racing world.

Zayat hails from Egypt and is well connected to political figures such as the Egyptian president. He also happens to have a master’s degree from Boston University and Harvard. In addition, despite coming from a predominately Muslim environment, he chose to follow Judaism.

As for his horse, it seems it snatched up an all-star athlete, as trainer Dale Romans sang American Pharoah’s praises even before the race commenced.

“There’s nothing that horse can do that’s positive that can surprise me, whether he breaks the track record or wins by 10,” trainer Dale Romans told the New York Daily News before the race.

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