American Pharoah is living the good life in retirement and earning big money in doing so. The four-year old thoroughbred and Triple Crown champion has traded racing for reproduction at Coolmore Farms in Versailles, Kentucky.
"He's grown up," said his Racing Manager Justin Zayat, who recently visited his prized racehorse for the first time since retirement. Justin's father Ahmed is the owner of American Pharoah. "He looks more like a relaxed horse."
Pharoah, who made history as the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed did it in 1978, is living a life most horses could only dream about. "He could breed 2-3 times per day during breeding season," said Scott Calder, who works in sales & marketing at Coolmore Farms America.
When Pharoah isn't breeding, he spends his time in the fields eating grass, getting groomed and visiting with tour groups that have stopped by the farm. The 1,340-pound horse has gained about 170 pounds since retiring.
"He's proven to be very professional in the breeding shed. He's breeding very well and so far it's been smooth sailing."
Now considered a "stud," Pharoah has bred with more than 100 mares so far. By the time breeding season is over in late June, it's expected he will have bred with 175.
"He's proven to be very professional in the breeding shed," said Calder. "He's breeding very well and so far it's been smooth sailing."
Calder said demand for breeding services from the "horse of a lifetime" has been extremely high. But a date with the iconic horse isn't cheap. When Pharoah retired last November, his stud fee was set at an eye-popping $200,000, a record amount for an unproven stallion.
Applicants pay the fee only if the applicant's mare has a foal that is able to stand.
That means American Pharoah can earn as much as $35 million this year through breeding — almost five-times more than he earned as a racehorse. Despite his historic career, Pharoah earned just over $8 million racing.
To put that in perspective, basketball star LeBron James makes $20 million in salary (not counting endorsements), and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon makes $27 million per year.
"The real money is in the breeding game. Most serious players in the game are really racing for the afterlife," said Zayat, who declined to say how much his family will make from breeding. "It's like an annuity for life, once you have a stallion of that magnitude."
According to Calder, stallions can breed well into their 20's, so Pharoah's breeding career is just getting started. As time goes on, the stud fee could fluctuate depending on how the quality and performance of the freshman stallion's offspring.
Meanwhile, Justin Zayat said he has plans that go beyond American Pharoah. The 24-year-old has graduated from New York University and is focused full-time on horses.
"I want to do it again," he said. "I want to be the first two-time winner and continue to make Zayat Stables the New York Yankees of horse racing.