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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