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Peppered Cat Punching Above His Weight

Photo: Daehling Ranch
Peppered Cat

Not many people outside Northern California have heard of the stallion Peppered Cat, but with current earnings per starter of $36,400 compared to a 2013 stud fee of $2,000, the 13-year-old son of Tabasco Cat is starting to get some attention.

Granted, he's had just 16 starters, but that group includes 10 winners and three stakes horses.

In 2004 trainer Alex Paszkeicz claimed Peppered Cat at Golden Gate Fields for a mere $4,000 and still owns the stallion.

"I happened to be talking to one of the gate crew, and he said this Hollendorfer horse in the 7th race is a shoe-in," Paszkeicz recalled. "I took a look at the form and I liked him."

Peppered Cat won the 5 1/2-furlong race by 15 lengths and equaled the track record. There were 12 claims in for him and Paszkeicz won the shake.

"I don't usually claim horses, but I happened to have $4,000 in my track account," Paszkeicz said. "I was lucky enough to get the claim."

Paszkeicz began training 20 years ago after he retired from teaching art and physical education. He also coached the track team, an experience he says helps a lot in his current profession.

"I think a lot of jockeys would learn a lot if they were able to run track and get in races themselves," Paszkeicz said. "Jockeys do so many things that I wouldn't have my runners do—like when you're head-and-head with another runner, you go to the front; you don't go to the back and then try to come around them."

Peppered Cat rarely had that problem since his :21 and change speed usually put him on the lead. The horse didn't win again, but Paszkeicz trained him to earn $20,000 and record a career-best 105 Equibase speed figure before retiring him to stud in 2005 for a $500 fee.

There weren't many breeders other than Paszkeicz willing to send mares to him during the first few seasons. In fact, Peppered Cat sired just seven foals in three years. But six of the seven are winners, including stakes-placed mare Sweetly Peppered, a six-time winner who has earned $220,000 for Paszkeicz.

Peppered Cat's runners race mostly at Golden Gate, but last year Sweetly Peppered won a third-level allowance at Santa Anita going a mile in 1:33.61 (VIDEO).

With the Peppered Cats winning, the stallion's fee doubled twice in four years, and he is now Breeders' Cup nominated.

Joe Daehling stands the horse at his Daehling Ranch in Elk Grove, Calif., 20 minutes outside Sacramento. The 400-acre property boards about 50 broodmares and stands six stallions.

"He's my most popular stallion right now," Daehling said. "He bred about 22 mares last year. He's a very nice-looking, big horse."

Peppered Cat appears to have inherited the length of Tabasco Cat and muscular frame of his broodmare sire, Meadowlake. Bred by John Franks in Florida, Peppered Cat is out of grade III winner Morning Meadow, who was best between seven and nine furlongs. This is the family of sires Sultry Song and Mass Media (TrueNicks,SRO) as well as Ashland Stakes (gr. I) winner Hooh Why.

Given the modest beginning to his stud career, Peppered Cat will be an interesting sire to track as his larger crops start racing, particularly if they venture outside of Northern California.

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Hi Ian,

As you might imagine, this piece brought a smile to my face. Obscure stallions almost never receive publicity, unless they happen to come up with a notable stakes winner which is not the case here. Fact is, though, this stallion is derserving of some notice, and I commend you for "finding" him and reporting to us. There are, no doubt, others like him out there, and it's a real shame that so many are never discovered/ remain underappreciated unless they happen to sire a "big" horse. Many in racing/breeding fail to realize how difficult it is to sire several good runners from small books of lower quality mares. They're out there, but it takes someone like you to give them some due. In a more ideal world, breeders would be more astute, pay closer attention, and distribute the mare population accordingly. The truer reality often lies beyond mere superficial race record and pedigree, but it takes a real "student" who is also willing to give time and effort to see it...On a somewhat related note, I've gained a greater appreciation for Meadowlake "blood" over the past few years.

sceptre 07 Mar 2013 8:51 PM

The last few years, the horses that I pay special attention to on the Triple Crown trail are the ones with Tabasco Cat or Summer Squall as the broodmare sire. It is nice to see that there is a stallion carrying on the Tabasco Cat sire line. I hope this post means his book increases in quantity and quality.

Karen in Indiana 07 Mar 2013 10:59 PM

Thanks, sceptre, glad you enjoyed it. It was nice of Alex and Joe to take the time to discuss their stallion. I agree there are many under-the-radar types like these that probably deserve more mare support.

Ian Tapp 07 Mar 2013 11:06 PM

California seems to have a lot of these 'under the radar' sort of stallions who have trouble finding mares. Unusual Heat started that way - "free to mares with a working uterus" was his first season fee, and that first crop included 8 winners of over $100K from 15 foals, 13 starters. Smokester got Free House from his first crop of 3. Soft Gold, a G1 winning dirt runner from Brazil, also got a good proportion of winners and money-earners from little to no publicity and small crops.

Pedigree Ann 08 Mar 2013 1:26 PM

I agree: Obscure stallions can make interesting stories. In looking at past performances noted Peppered Cat broke his maiden at Turfway Park in Kentucky. ... Seems like a candidate for some larger crops, especially in California. And only 13 years old.

JerseyTom 08 Mar 2013 1:45 PM

Yes, once a new stallion is banished to the hinterlands, which is almost anywhere outside of KY, FL, or NY, their only hope generally is in having an owner with very deep pockets to support them. Speaking of California, what about Cindago who is, unfortunately, now deceased. Many may shrug, what's the big deal, he never sired a truly noteworthy runner. And that's my point, it's almost impossible to sire an elite runner from small books of lower quality mates. One has to look a little deeper at the general quality of his offspring, and compare that with the numbers and quality of his books. Cindago was among those I had followed closely, as a runner and sire. This son of Indian Charlie displayed great talent, albeit in an abbreviated racing career, beating the likes of the talented and speedy Latent Heat. The point is, he was a veritable unknown when he went to stud, but he shouldn't have been an "unknown"-Too much talent and pedigree to be so dismissed. . Now take a look at his sire record relative to the opportunity afforded him. I'm not suggesting that the majority of "unknowns" don't deserve that label, but there are many others worthy of far greater support. We shouldn't be sheep and merely follow what is vogue/the easy, superficial path. Unfortunately, most times it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy... Also, take a look at Seeking A Home, in Texas. If we were all better "students", and knew more of the "inside" dope, many might have flocked to him.  

sceptre 08 Mar 2013 3:45 PM

With the raw speed he displayed as a racehorse and his classic Nearco on the top and Native Dancer on the bottom breeding I'm not surprised he has been such a success.

Tesio believed raw speed was essential in a horse if they were to be great sires, not just staying power.

I'm sure there are many other stallions out there with classic breeding that will never even see a mare since our own industry is so inbred itself and controlled by marketing interests.

So many smart horseman over the years (Hooper, Nerud, Tesio) etc., just did their own thing when it came to breeding horses and ignored the commercial market.

Lexington Bloodstock 08 Mar 2013 4:25 PM

Peppered Cat is definitely an interesting Stallion prospect. His sire could cover a route of ground with class, and his Dam side has a lot of favorable influence as well. It's hard to tell from looking at his racing stats why he didn't improve, but it looks like he was real close to being real good with all that natural speed ability. The photo hints of a right front bow and maybe even tied in also, and back a little at the left knee, but again that's just from the photo, but the gaskin looks nice. It's hard to tell with out looking at his get but good blood does have a way of hanging around and showing back up. He could be a sneeky good value peppered with Sire potential, but you would still want to look at everything live and up close if at all possible.

Bill Rinker 08 Mar 2013 10:19 PM

I'd be interested in your thoughts on Bold Chieftain, who went to stud last year in California. He was sturdy, dependable, in the money 36 out of 47 times and a California turf horse champion.

Karen in Indiana 09 Mar 2013 12:04 AM

It is not just in California that breeders ignore what may be good sires if given the chance.

In South Dakota, the Frame family endeavoured for many years to keep alive the last remaining male line branch of Sir Archy, through EL Tesoro (1961) who reached 20 years old, yet in all those years that he was available to breeders, no one seemed interested in helping to preserve this oldest of American bloodline....

He did have a grandson foaled in 1987 by Peerless out of Helio Lassie, whose female line goes back to the Buzzard mare that was the dam of Andrew Jackson's horse Truxton who as we all know was quite a good racehorse, this is the American Thoroughbred Family number Two.. from whom descend several classic winners, so seemingly this horse came from a good background.

Hal Dane. 09 Mar 2013 7:41 AM

Hal Dane.:

The mere fact that a male descends from an old, rare family that many generations back had some quality is insufficient reason for using them at stud. Your El Tesoro appears to have nothing else to recommend. The horse himself was unraced, and there's little quality to the pedigree up close. So, fairly unlikely he carries much of what you feel were old treasured genes.  

sceptre 09 Mar 2013 12:15 PM

Bold Chieftain has all the ingredients to be a nice regional sire - durability, some measure of class (G3 winner, placed in G2), won on dirt, turf, and all-weather (and 2 for 2 on off-tracks), won 2 of 3 at 2 - everything a regional breeder could want. Depended far less on state-bred stakes races for his earnings than Star Guitar in Louisiana, who is being advertized all over TVG these days.

Back when he was an early 3yo, he was on the Derby Trail in NoCal and I was fascinated by his pedigree. He has the accomplished half-brothers Seattle Slew and Seattle Dancer 2x2! (3x3 to My Charmer) His dam has Northern Dancer 3x4, while the sire had the similarly bred Icecapade (Nearctic over Native Dancer) as his damsire. Plus BC's third dam is by Nearctic. And NO MR. PROSPECTOR. Anywhere. No Raise a Native. What a great outcross opportunity for breeders with mares who have a lot of Mr. P.

PS. Close inbreeding does not produce unsoundness. Close inbreeding to unsound animals through unsound animals causes unsoundness. My Charmer ran 32 times.

Pedigree Ann 09 Mar 2013 12:35 PM

I suppose one can make a case for almost any new sire, but Bold Chieftain does little for me. These hard-knocking, big $ earners with little real pedigree to them need to have demonstrated (to me) a very high level of racing talent. From my perspective, this type almost never succeeds, but their earnings and perceived durability tend to attract mares away from others more worthy. Also, not so sure that inbreeding to My Charmer is a +.. and, as an aside, My Charmer may indeed be inherently sound, but a 32 race career isn't alone enough proof of this. For example, most would conclude that a My Charmer was inherently sounder than say a Raise A Native. I wouldn't. Lastly, I beg to differ with Pedigree Ann (and Byron), close inbreeding can increase the liklihood for "unsoundness"-you're not out of the woods just because the immediate conduits were sound (think recessive genes).  

sceptre 09 Mar 2013 4:43 PM

I own a Peppered Cat yearling filly. Love her. The Peppered Cat's can all run. He is the "Rags to Riches" Stallion story of the last two decades.

Don 09 Mar 2013 5:48 PM

@ Bill Rinker; he had multiple physical problems. The fact that he ran blistering fractions despite his problems was an indication to what kind of heart he possessed. Fortunately he seems to not be passing on poor soundness. His best horse thus far, Sweetly Peppered, is still running at age six. Matter of fact she in a stake race at GGF this afternoon.

Don 09 Mar 2013 5:58 PM

Thanks. Pedigree Ann. He was a favorite of mine the last 4 years he raced - he was sound, consistent and always gave his best. Temperament and attitude are just as important as the physical attributes, so I wondered about his pedigree. He's one of those - If I ever win the lottery and can get a few mares to breed and then race the offspring.... He'd be one I'd want to sire some.

Karen in Indiana 09 Mar 2013 7:36 PM

Peppered Cat is impressive in person, big huge 17 h muscled guy, his picture doesn't do him justice. When I saw this guy, my first thought was "Meadowlake". I feel his statistics are skewed, his owner/trainer is intensely involved in the race careers of his small crop of offspring, and that is an advantage the get of most stallion's don't have.

Jeff 10 Mar 2013 4:13 PM

I think Unusual Heat had 4 runners in one of the races today at SA!  Didn't win tho...  Still a great surprise and I would breed to him in a heartbeat if I was in Cal.

joltman 10 Mar 2013 11:54 PM

I have three mares in foal for 2013 to Peppered Cat. I have bee a huge believer in him since his first foals ran. considering the number of foals, and pedigrees of the mares, I felt he was on his way to success.

Neale 11 Mar 2013 1:47 PM

A friend of mine recently purchased and retired a horse that I believe has a real shot as a stallion, though he may also qualify as "under the radar".  His name is Understatement (by Distorted Humor, out of Emotional Outburst, by Capote).  He was a New York stakes winner, earned a top Beyer of 115, and a top Equibase figure of 126.  Understatement also has nice conformation, as evidenced by his $1,050,000 Keeneland September yearling price.  He entered stud this year at Oakhurst Thoroughbreds (Newberg, OR)with a $1,000 stud fee.

gtbloodstock 13 Mar 2013 6:18 PM

Thanks, gtbloodstock. Understatement is a TrueNicks stallion (you can get free hypothetical mating reports for him here) and I've spoken with his owner who's quite excited about standing the horse.

I actually spent some time around Understatement on the racetrack; I remember him being an intelligent horse with a good disposition--certainly good qualities to pass along. Given his pedigree and race record, he may become quite a standout in Washington.

Ian Tapp 15 Mar 2013 12:31 AM

Sceptre -


But the fact of being inbred does not CREATE unsoundness where none exists. All you have to do is cull your stock, let the racing-unsound ones become school horses and breed from the sound ones. Do that a few generations and you can inbreed as much as you want; you'll rarely get a racing-unsound one. This is speaking hypothetically of course.

Comedy hour over. Nobody's going to geld a racing-unsound, unraced brother to Tapit for a school horse. They can sell him to a regional breeder for more money. "He was the fastest 2yo in the barn, but he cracked a sesamoid in a workout." Whatever. Is this the 'more worthy' sort you are speaking of?

I do love to see Caixa Electronica run; his sire Arromanches was a grand old upper-level claimer running in New York for many a year. The Relaunch son won 31 of 78 starts and even got a stakes placing. And he was white as a ghost in his maturity. Somebody gave him chance at stud in Indiana and with a modest mare descending from My Charmer, he got a chip off the old block; Caixa has 20 wins in 61 starts, multiple G2 winner, G1-placed, still racing as an entire at the age of 8. Hope he gets a place at stud somewhere.

*Golden Eagle II was another entire who was raced in upper-claiming in his to age 9 or 10 by his "I am not a breeder" owner (didn't come to the states until he was 6); he was the first stallion for the Mabees at Golden Eagle Farm, siring G1 winner Beau's Eagle.

Pedigree Ann 15 Mar 2013 1:11 PM

I have just sent one of my mares to a similar stallion in Ontario. The Stallion's name is Where's The Ring and his runners have averaged $67,000. per starter. They have great 2 year old stats and are very tough and durable. I like comparing the more inexpensive stallion averages to the high priced Kentucky stallions. You would be surprises.

Kathy 19 Mar 2013 7:29 AM

Pedigree Ann:

Seems that it took you a while to decide (? research) how to respond to me. To begin with, I'd suggest you review the last (3 line) sentence of the (my) post to which you take issue. Notice that you misstated my position. Re-your retort; it's virtually impossible to KNOW that no unsoundness exists in those genomes-or, perhaps, more to the point, their recessive genes. Yes, observable soundness in all the more immediate generations can appreciably ease those fears, but a) I specifically said CLOSE inbreeding-so I'm not sure what you mean by "a few generations" and, b) who says that inherent unsoundness is that "observable"-note my comment about the relative soundness of Raise A Native vs My Charmer. Please accept that in the thoroughbred racehorse breed the vast majority of genes are "fixed" (same for all), and since it's a breed that has been selectively bred for generations the recessive genes would tend to "carry" more negative "effects". It can often take many, many generations to "breed these out". Close inbreeding increases the chances whereby two identical recessive genes can be paired up thus resulting in phenotypic consequence. And, as said before, this is just one potential negative consequence of close inbreeding...Re- your next point: I wouldn't liken a Cindago to your unraced full-brother to Tapit, but yes, I'd prefer to breed to a really good-looking, athletic, well-conformed colt that demonstrated exceptional talent in the morning, and was bred very much to my liking, but broke down (depending upon the cause) to a mediocre-bred hard knocker of, say, G-II-III racing caliber. Also, one would think that you could have found better anecdotes in support of your position. And yes, I would have (initially) surely considered a Seeking A Home, or a Prospector Jones over those you mentioned. This is not to suggest that my unraced, or lightly raced prospect-types customerily "make it", only that they do so far more often than (what appears to be) your "types".-and, perhaps unlike yourself, my notions didn't rest at the "hypothetical", but rather were practiced.    

sceptre 19 Mar 2013 5:37 PM

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