09 Jun 10 things to know about Orthodox Jew Ahmed Zayat and his Triple Crown Stallion American Pharoh
On June 6, American Pharoah, a horse owned by Egypt-born Orthodox Jew Ahmed Zayat, won the Triple Crown—the first horse to do so since 1978 when Affirmed won. Here are some facts about Zayat’s Jewish connections.
Here are 10 things to know about Zayat and his champion stallion American Pharoh.
1) Ahmed Zayat grew up in a wealthy suburb of Cairo, where his father was Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s doctor.
2) As a young teenager, Zayat won the under-12 and under-14 national show jumping championships in Egypt (a once-thriving Jewish community, though fewer than 40 Jews remain in the country today).
3) After graduating from Yeshiva University, Zayat worked for the Charedi Orthodox real estate developer Zev Wolfson.
4) Zayat went to college in the United States and then worked for Wolfson, a wealthy real estate entrepreneur and major Jewish philanthropist.
5) He made his fortune in part by selling non-alcoholic malt drinks in Egypt.
Zayat returned to Egypt in 1995 and formed an investment group that bought the newly privatized Al Ahram Beverages company. Zayat helped turn the company around by introducing Fayrouz – a non-alcoholic blend of malt, fruit and sparkling water – into its line of products. In 2002, Zayat sold the company to Heineken for $280 million.
6) Zayat has been millions of dollars in debt on multiple occasions.
He has the reputation of being a flamboyant, risk-taking gambler and gotten into financial trouble over the years. In 2009, the Fifth Third Bank of Lexington, Kentucky, accused him of defaulting on four loans after losing over $50 million. On Thursday, a different lawsuit against Zayat alleging that he owed a Florida resident $1.65 million was thrown out. “It’s a scam from A to Z. It’s total fiction. It’s a total lie,” he had previously told The Associated Press.
7) He donates to Jewish causes.
Zayat once donated $500,000 to the Frisch School, a Jewish day school in Paramus, New Jersey. American Pharoah flies to races in his own plane called Air Horse One.
8) Zayat also made sure to observe Shabbos before the race. According to The Associated Press, Zayat and his family slept in RV’s on June 5 and walked to Belmont Park in New York the next day in order to observe the Shabbos.
Zayat lives with his family in Teaneck, New Jersey, and attends Congregation Bnai Yeshurun.
9) Zayat once named a yearling “Maimonides” to promote peace among Jews and Arabs.
10) American Pharoah’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, who is not Jewish, visited the Lubavitcher rebbe’s grave on June 4 in Cambria Heights, in the borough of Queens, where he prayed and presumably asked for good luck for his colt.