Storm Cat: Sire of a Lifetime

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Storm Cat (1983-2013)

News today of the passing of Storm Cat at the age of 30 gave pause to reflect on how a stallion can be a constant presence for half a lifetime (indeed, if you are a member of a younger generation, it must seem as if he's always been there).

I first saw Storm Cat back in July 1987 at Overbrook Farm when the then 4-year-old had been retired from racing but had not yet commenced his stud career. The trip, undertaken with John Muldoon—then racing and breeding manager for Mr. & Mrs. B. R. Firestone, for whom I was working at the time—was my first from England to the U.S. and came about as a result of negotiations to purchase Storm Cat to stand at the Firestone's Gilltown Stud in Ireland.

Storm Cat's attraction in Ireland would have been as a mid-priced son of Storm Bird, a horse whose offspring were then doing well in Europe. The fact that his purchase was even a possibility underlines the fact that Storm Cat was not exactly regarded as a major commercial proposition for the U.S. sire ranks. He eventually remained at Overbrook, beginning his stud career in 1988 at an advertised fee of $30,000, although in the early years his seasons often traded at significantly lower prices.

History shows that Storm Cat was to become a dominant force in an era of dominant stallions, falling in the middle of a 5-year period that also saw the birth of Sadler's Wells—arguably the greatest stallion ever to stand in Europe, and another who seemed a constant presence for much of one's life; Sunday Silence, who reshaped the breed in Japan; and Danehill, who set new standards in Australia as well as earning sire's crowns in Europe.

Although the Storm Cats did very well in Europe, he was really the quintessential U.S. sire for the most recent paradigm shift, that which prizes a dirt runner that is precocious enough to be a contender for major prizes in the fall of its 2-year-old season, is effective at 8 1/2-9 furlongs in the spring of its 3-year-old career, and that with a following wind can at least dream of lasting 10 furlongs come the first Saturday in May.

Oddly enough, given his dominance over his contemporaries which saw him stand at a stud fee of $500,000 for several seasons, Storm Cat's classic cupboard was surprisingly bare. He was never represented by a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner, and his sole victories in the Triple Crown events came through Tabasco Cat, who captured both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes (both gr. I), although Sardula was a Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner.

So far the only U.S. classic victory for horse sired by a son or grandson of Storm Cat is that achieved by Shackleford (TrueNicks,SRO) in the 2011 Preakness Stakes. Still, his U.S. runners did also include a Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) hero in Cat Thief (TrueNicks,SRO) and a pair of champion 2-year-old fillies in Storm Flag Flying and Sweet Catomine. In Europe he had a pair of classic winners in Black Minnaloushe and Nebraska Tornado, and a European Horse of the Year in Giant's Causeway (TrueNicks,SRO).

Of course, Storm Cat is also famous for the legion of grade I sires that he left behind, among them Giant's Causeway, Hennessy, Tale of the Cat (TrueNicks,SRO), Forestry (TrueNicks,SRO), Forest Wildcat, Stormy Atlantic (TrueNicks,SRO), Harlan, Bernstein, and Pure Prize (TrueNicks,SRO). Giant's Causeway has actually outdone his sire in one respect, as he's captured three titles as leading sire to Storm Cat's two, although neither he nor any other sire in the near future is likely to match Storm Cat's record seven appearances as leading sire of 2-year-olds.

On the Storm Cat sire line front, we are also reminded of the passage of time by the rate at which Storm Cat has receded into some pedigrees. Scat Daddy (TrueNicks,SRO), the leading freshman sire of 2011, is by Hennessy's son Johannesburg, which places Storm Cat in the fourth generation of Scat Daddy's offspring.

Odds are that we'll never see another U.S. sire of Storm Cat's standing in our lifetime. If there is, and even assuming he's already around, if he lives as long as Storm Cat, he's likely to see us out the rest of our lifetime.

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