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American Pharaoh, Horse Owned by Orthodox Jewish Father and Son, Wins Kentucky Derby

Ahmed Zayat and his son Justin have watched three times as their horse opened a lead coming around the final turn in the Kentucky Derby.

This Saturday the Zayats finally broke that trend Saturday, and they have a great chance of doing that.
This father and son team owns three of the top 20 contenders for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby with Mr. Z, El Kaiber and the likely favorite, American Pharoah. After their horse finished as a runner up in 2009, 2011, and 2012 the Zayats could barely contain their excitement for this year’s race.

Before the race Saturday, Justin Zayat said “it’s what every single owner dreams about.” The 23-year-old racing manager of Zayat Stables is an economics major at NYU. “You want to get one horse to the Derby and to have three there, it’s a fairy tale over here.

“We’re so excited about our position right now, I can’t sleep at night. It’s the only thing on my mind all day.”
Ahmed Zayat echoed his son’s feelings.

“I am tickled pink, I am very excited. I am on needles every time a trainer of mine calls, my heart sinks for 30 seconds,” said Zayat, who emigrated from Egypt to the United States at age 16. He later earned his Master’s degree at Boston University and resides in Teaneck, N.J. “I’ve been through highs and lows in this game, and I know how to keep these athletes sound and healthy is not an easy task.”

The 52-year-old Ahmed Zayat was raised Jewish in Egypt, part of the last generation of a population that has all but vanished from that country. The number of Jews in Egypt as of last year has come out as fewer than 40 according to publsihed reports. Zayat is and Orthodox Jew and displayed his faith when he would not return calls during Passover so as not to be in violation of the holiday.

Zayat is also known for giving charity to Jewish causes, including a $500,000 donation to The Frisch School, a Jewish school in Paramus, which named an athletic center for him. In 2003, he and his wife were honored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who placed a mention in the Congressional Record that the SINAI Special Needs Institute honored the couple for their contribution to special needs children.

“God made me prosperous,” said Zayat, the father of four children, ages 12 to 23. “I worked very hard for my money. I have been successful. But at the end of the day, you need to give back.”

When Zayat sold his company, Al Ahram Beverages, to Heineken in 2002 for $280 million their road to becoming prominent owners really got its start.

The Zayats have homes in Cairo and London in addition to Teaneck and they currently own some 220 horses. Justin Zayat has been involved in operating the stables with a team ever since he was a teenager.


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