Keeneland Racetrack in Lexington Kentucky is the beautiful home of the most prestigious Thoroughbred sales in North America. The annual yearling sales attract the best bred would be stakes winners available to be purchased. The leading movers and shakers in the industry converge at Keeneland to bid on these well conformed yearlings with top class pedigrees. Certain sires have dominated these sales with their get, leading the sales figures. During the nineteen nineties and early two-thousands, Storm Cat was the undisputed sire king of these sales.
Prior to Storm Cat’s domination, his grand sire Northern Dancer re-wrote the record books as the superstar sire during the nineteen seventies and eighties. The spirited and intense bidding wars for Northern Dancer yearlings made headlines and drove the prices up in the yearling market to astronomical levels. After the retirement from breeding of Northern Dancer, the market cooled off somewhat, until the rise of Storm Cat a decade later.
Storm Cat came to prominence as a sire quickly, although he was not generally accepted as a premier sire prospect from the start of his career. He had a good racing career, being a grade one stakes winning two year old with a very solid pedigree, However, it was noted that his conformation, he had off set knees which hampered his training beyond his two year old season, were widely known throughout the industry. These aspects of Storm Cat’s sire potential caused concern for the top breeders of Thoroughbreds.
Looking at the pedigree of Storm Cat, one must begin with his sire Storm Bird. Storm Bird, out of South Ocean by New Providence, was a full brother to champion Northernette and was bred in 1978 by E.P. Taylor at his Windfields Farm in Oshawa. He was sold as a yearling at Keeneland for $1 million to the Vincent O’Brien team. He was the top priced yearling in that sale. He became a champion when he swept all who challenged him to capture the two year old honours in England and Ireland. He won five of five races culminating with a driving performance in the prestigious Dewhurst Stakes.
Storm Bird would not make it to the classics however as a series of injuries and a savage attack by a former Ballydoyle employee with a vendetta (he hacked the mane and tail of Storm Bird in a late night raid) kept him from the races. Storm Bird was known as a spirited but gentle horse before the attack, but developed trust issues thereafter. Syndicated for $28 million he did make one more start late in the season, finishing a distant seventh.
Storm Bird became another of the great sires sired by Northern Dancer, getting sixty-four stakes winners for a 9.4% strike rate and is the broodmare sire of one hundred and fifty-five stakes winners. He got good horses such as multi champion Indian Skimmer, the winner of the Prix Saint-Alary, Prix de Diane and the English and Irish Champion Stakes. Bluebird was a champion sprinter in Ireland and a successful sire. Summer Squall won the Preakness Stakes and became a successful sire. The wonderful Balanchine won the Epsom Oaks and the Irish Derby. Mukaddamah was a champion three year old in France and Prince Of Birds was a champion miler in Ireland. Clearly Storm Bird was a world class sire.
The dam of Storm Cat was Terlingua, a daughter of the legendary Secretariat. Terlingua was a very fast early developing sprinting female from a line of fast early developing sprinters. Her dam was the blazingly fast Crimson Saint, a filly who set track records of 44: 4/5 for four furlongs as a two year old and 56 seconds flat for five furlongs as a three year old. Crimson Saint would also produce champion and world class sire of one hundred and seventy-one stakes winners Royal Academy by Nijinsky, as well as multi graded stakes winner Pancho Villa by Secretariat.
Terlingua possessed much of her mother’s attributes and personality, but did have Secretariat’s colour and powerful hips. She was a headstrong lady with off-set knees and would pass on to her dark bay son Storm Cat much of these conformation and personality traits.
Storm Cat was high spirited but came to hand early in his two year old season to become one of the top colts of his year. Racing in the colours of his breeder William T. Young of Overbrook Farm, he won the Young America Stakes over Danzig Connection and Mogambo. This victory avenged his narrow defeat to Danzig Connection in the World Appeal Stakes three weeks prior. Starting in the second running of the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, Storm Cat held a clear advantage down the home stretch only to be caught at the wire by a fast closing Tasso. The nose defeat would cost Storm Cat the Eclipse Award for the two year old colt division.
He came out of the BC Juvenile with a chipped knee and had to undergo surgery to repair the damage. He was not seen at the races until the last day of October, winning a six furlong allowance race at the Meadowlands. Three weeks later he finished fourth in the Annapolis Stakes at Laurel, returning to the barn with another leg injury. Attempts were made to bring Storm Cat back to the races as a four year old but alas, he could not hold up to training and was retired to stud beginning in the 1988 breeding season.
A stud fee of $30,000 was placed on Storm Cat for his inaugural breeding year. The initial response by breeders toward Storm Cat was lukewarm at best. His books were not full and the quality of mares he serviced was somewhat pedestrian. Overbrook would be forced to reduce his stud fee to $20,000 in order to attract breeders to send mares to the court of Storm Cat. It was not looking promising.
However, once the progeny of Storm Cat made it to the track, a revelation took place. His first few crops contained many top class early developing colts and fillies. They were winning many of the big events for two year olds and were training on as three year olds, winning many more prestigious races. The first crop contained eight stakes winner from forty-four foals. Among this crop was the filly November Snow, winner of the early season My Dear Stakes and Poinsetta Stakes at two, and then the Alabama Stakes and the Test Stakes as a three year old. Harlan also came from this crop and would prove to the breeding world that Storm Cat could sire horses to train on, winning the Vosburgh Handicap as a five year old.
By the time of Harlan’s Vosburgh win, three more Storm Cat crops had made it to the races. The second crop contained Mountain Cat who would set a two year old money earnings mark. Also in the second crop came two time champion English sprinter Catrail, and Breeder’s Cup Sprint winner Desert Stormer.
The third crop of Storm Cat foals however put him over the top. Tabasco Cat won the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, becoming his sire’s first classic winner. Sardula won the Hollywood Starlet Stakes and the Kentucky Oaks, while Forest Wildcat won four sprint stakes as a five year old.
Storm Cat’s stud fee began a steady rise to $60,000 and then jump to $100,000 following the success of Tabasco Cat in the classics. He was proving to be a reliable source of all types of runners. Furthermore, his success in not only North America but also in Europe would continue to extraordinary levels. By the time of the 2000 breeding season, a service to Storm Cat cost $500,000. By this point in time, another aspect for success to a stallion’s record was beginning to show. His early sons were proving to be very good sires, thus showing the way that Storm Cat was emerging as a sire of sires. The lid has now blown off and the Storm Cat yearlings will be coveted at all the premier sales from now on.
During the 2000 racing year, Storm Cat’s durable chestnut son Giant’s Causeway became Ireland’s “Iron Horse”. Out of Mariah’s Storm by Rahy, Giant’s Causeway followed his successful two year old season highlighted with his win in the Prix de la Salamandre, with a remarkable three year old campaign. Victories in five group one races, the St. James Palace Stakes the Eclipse Stakes the Sussex Stakes the Irish Champion Stakes and the Juddmonte Champion Stakes, were enhanced with very close second place finishes in the Irish 2000 Guineas the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes the English 2000 Guineas and, in his only start on dirt, in the Breeder’s Cup Classic.
The latter race would give North American breeders encouragement to breed their mares to Giant’s Causeway. After standing for one season at the Coolmore Ireland farm, Giant’s Causeway took up residence at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky. He has been nothing short of sensational as a sire, leading the North American sire list three times.
Among the top get sired by Giant’s Causeway are Shamardal, Dalkala, Irish Mission, Footprintsinthesand, Aragorn, My Typhoon, Heatseeker, Take Charge Brandi, Creative Cause, Carpe Diem, Eskendereya, Intense Focus, Eishin Apollon, Ghanaati, Brody’s Cause and Red Giant. Giant’s Causeway has sired one hundred and fifty-six stakes winners so far, thirty-two of which are G1 winners, and he is not done yet. Furthermore his sons and daughters are in high demand for breeding. Shamardal is enjoying a breakout year at stud in Ireland while Giant’s Causeway broodmares are establishing him as an emerging giant (sorry for the pun) as a broodmare sire.
Returning to Storm Cat, we find many more G1 stakes winners he has sired. Eclipse Award champion two year old filly Sweet Catomine won the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies the Del Mar Debutante and the Santa Anita Oaks. Cat Thief won the Breeder’s Cup Classic and the Swaps Stakes. Black Minnaloushe won the Irish 2000 Guineas. One Cool Cat and Hold That Tiger were champion two year olds in Europe. Forestry won the G1 King’s Bishop Stakes. Aljabr won the Prix de la Salamandre the Sussex Stake and the Lockinge Stakes. Ambitious Cat (Dance Smartly Stakes) was a champion turf female in Canada. Silken Cat was a champion two year old filly in Canada.
The latter would become the dam of champion sprinter Speightstown, thus showing the way to breeders that the final aspect to Storm Cat’s stud record, that as a broodmare sire of stakes winners, was of world class. Speightstown has been one of the most coveted sires in North America in the past few years and is consistently in the top ten on the year end list.
Other world class horses produced by daughters of Storm Cat include Eclipse champion two year old Folklore (Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies, Matron Stakes), Mujahid (Dewhurst Stakes), Nobiz Like Shobiz (Wood Memorial), Sky Mesa (Hopeful Stakes) who is becoming a top rated sire, Dialed In (Florida Derby), Unfurl The Flag (Triple Bend Handicap), and Buddha (Wood Memorial).
Storm Cat’s domination of the biggest yearling sales, especially the Keeneland venue, is the stuff of legends. He is the sire two of the all-time top ten yearlings sold at the Keeneland auctions. His highest priced yearling was Jalil, a carbon copy of his sire. Jalil cost Godolphin Racing $9.7 million in 2005. He would win the G2 Maktoum Challenge Stakes and is now standing stud in China
Another big ticket son of Storm Cat sold at Keeneland was the chestnut colt Van Nistelrooy. Coming from a very productive family descending from a Windfields Farm foundation mare Reply (fourth dam), Van Nistelrooy was out of the very good broodmare Halory by Halo, who produced five graded stakes winners in total. Van Nistelrooy cost Susan Magnier $6.4 million and would go on to win the EBF Futurity Stakes and the Tyro Stakes. He stood his first seven breeding seasons at Ashford Stud, shuttling to Trelawny Stud in New Zealand for three years, before he was relocated to Haras Firmamento in Argentina in 2011.
The most expensive G1 stakes winners sired by Storm Cat and sold at auction were Mr. Sydney (Maker’s Mark Mile) who cost $3.9 million and Sophisticat (Coronation Stakes) who was purchased for $3.4 million.
Although Storm Cat developed a legacy of yearling sales supremacy, his ultimate prevailing legacy will be as a sire of sires. Giant’s Causeway is leading the charge of Storm Cat sons at stud but there are others. Harlan did very well in his short time at stud, he died at the age of ten, and has passed the baton to his son Harlan’s Holiday. The latter won the Florida Derby, Blue Grass Stakes and the Donn Handicap before embarking a short but very productive sire career. Harlan’s Holiday died in 2013 at the age of fourteen. His champion son Shanghai Bobby (Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, Champagne Stakes) is a current in demand young sire standing at Ashford Stud.
Other sons of Storm Cat to make a serious mark in breeding include Forest Wildcat. Bred in Florida by Ocala Stud, Forest Wildcat sired G1 winners Wildcat Heir, D’Wildcat, champion European sprinter Var, Forest Secrets, and A Shine Forward. Storm Cat’s son Forestry sired the most expensive unraced horse in history when his son The Green Monkey sold for $16 million as a two year old. Forestry is also the sire of graded stakes winner Old Forester, the current leading sire in Canada, as well as G1 winner Discreet Cat and Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford. The latter is currently standing to full books of mares at Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky. His first crop of foals will hit the track next year.
Hennessy would enhance the reputation of Storm Cat as a sire of sires with his outstanding sons Johannesburg (Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, Phoenix Stakes, Prix Morny, Middle Park Stakes) and Henny Hughes (King’s Bishop Stakes, Vosburgh Stakes) who is the sire of the fabulous multi grade one stakes winner Beholder. Another son of Hennessy was Wiseman’s Ferry. Although he was only a minor stakes winner, this chestnut grandson of Storm Cat will be forever known as the sire of two time Eclipse Award horse of the year Wise Dan. The recently retired Wise Dan has been one of the most popular Thoroughbreds with the public in recent memory.
Tale Of The Cat has done his part to further the sire line legacy. A consistent race horse on the track winning five of nine races and finishing a further three times in the money, Tale Of The Cat has sired one hundred and four stakes winners at time of writing. Among his best are two times champion Gio Ponti (Arlington Million, Man O’ War Stakes twice), Lion Heart (Haskell Invitational, Hollywood Futurity), Tale Of Ekati (Wood Memorial), Stopchargingmaria (Alabama Stakes), She’s A Tiger (champion two year old filly), Gathering (WATC Railway Stakes) and Glamour Puss (Salinger stakes). Gio Ponti, Tale Of Ekati and Lion Heart are currently young in demand sires attempting to further the tail male line.
Further sons who have done well at stud are Stormy Atlantic, sire of Canadian champions Up With The Birds, Maritimer and Leonnatus Anteas, as well as Stormello (Hollywood Futurity), Next Question (Nearctic Stakes) and Get Stormy (Maker’s Mark Mile, Turf Classic, Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap). Bernstein was from the family of Buckpasser and would win a pair of G3 stakes in Ireland. He is the sire of G1 winners Karakontie (Breeder’s Cup Mile), Miss World (Garden City Stakes) and Dream Empress (Alcibiades Stakes). Stakes winner Yankee Gentleman has sired twenty-three stakes winners but will be forever known as the sire of Littleprincessemma, the dam of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
There are so many world class champions descending from Storm Cat that the numbers become bewildering. His influence is felt world-wide. When all was said and done, Storm Cat had sired one hundred and eighty-one stakes winners, 13% of all named foals. He led the North American sire list twice and was in the top ten another eight times. He was the champion sire of two year olds seven times. Storm Cat is the broodmare sire of more than one hundred and sixty stakes winners and is seen in the close up pedigrees of countless recent champions. He led the broodmare sire list in 2012.
Storm Cat has established a legacy of excellence. He was able to pass on his inherent will to win and his abundant speed, and even though the perception of his get were of precocious early speed, he has in actuality a diverse list of progeny that raced on all sorts of surfaces, in all sorts of distances, at all sorts of ages with all sorts of success.
Storm Cat was retired from breeding in 2008. His prepotency was in decline and in the opinion of the Overbrook management, he had done enough. He lived out his life on the farm in peace and treated like the king he became. Storm Cat passed away on April 24, 2013 due to the infirmities of old age. He was thirty years old. Overbrook erected a life sized statue of Storm Cat, marking his grave on the farm.
Right after Storm Cat passed on, the heavens opened up with a thunderstorm. Storm Cat had arrived at his final place of call.
(Photo courtesy of Overbrook Farm/Tony Leonard Collection)