Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

American Pharoah wins Triple Crown


Why is a Jewish newspaper running an article about a horse winning a race? Because this winning 3-year-old bay colt's owner, Ahmed Zayat, is an Orthodox Jew who studied at and graduated from Yeshiva University. After graduation, Zayat worked for the haredi Orthodox real estate developer Zev Wolfson. His Hebrew name is Ephraim. He and his family live in the Orthodox neighborhood of West Englewood in Teaneck, N.J., attend Congregation Bnai Yeshurun. And give generously to several Jewish causes.

Zayat, who was born in Cairo, Egypt, publicly identifies himself as both Jewish and Muslim. However, the family keeps kosher and when attending a race, they find hotels close to the tracks. For the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, the family stayed in an RV park and walked to the track because the race was on the Sabbath.

In an article with the New York Times, Zayat was asked to clarify his religion and he replied "Why is it relevant, and why does it matter? It's personal."

Zayat has been buying, breeding and selling horses since 2005. In 2006, he named one of his yearlings Maimonides, after Moses Maimonides, because he wanted to encourage peace between Arabs and Jews. Maimonides was one of the few horses named by Zayat. Most of his horses receive their names through name-this-horse contests - as was the case for American Pharoah (including the incorrect spelling). Marsha Baumgartner of Barnett, Missouri, submitted the winning entry, spelled correctly. However, somewhere along the way as it was submitted to The Jockey Club's interactive registration site, the "o" and the "a" got switched. The name was accepted and the rest is history.

Another interesting tidbit, Jeff Seder, one of Zayat's bloodstock agents, strongly encouraged him not to sell American Pharoah, known then as No. 85. Seder determined he was the best horse on the grounds based on scientific data on the horse's organs. At the time, Zayat was settling a bankruptcy. Seder's advice to Zayat was to sell his house and not the horse. "This is your get-out horse."

That get-out horse made history by winning the Triple Crown - only the 12th horse in horse racing history to do this.


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