Cefis, a grade II winner named for Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens, has died of an apparent heart attack at Middle Creek Farm near Woodhull, N.Y. The 22-year-old pensioned son of Caveat had resided at Middle Creek, owned by Gerry Trupia and her mother, Maryann, since the fall of 2005. He did not breed any mares in 2006.
Bred by James Ryan and Robert Kirkham's Ryehill-Kirkham Partnership, Cefis initially raced for the two men and later for Mark and Katherine Hardin's Rockburn Farm. He was trained his entire career by Stephens, whose middle name was Cefis.
Placed on the 1988 Triple Crown trail, Cefis won the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) that March and competed in all three classics, but finished unplaced in each. Showing a bit of sturdiness, he started in the Jersey Derby (gr. II) in between the Preakness (gr. I) and Belmont (gr. I) Stakes and ran third. He won the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) later that year.
Cefis was acquired as a 5-year-old by Rockburn in the fall of 1990 and raced to the end of 1991. Remarkably rugged, he had started 67 times over five years, winning or placings in 23 races and earning $785,314.
Cefis, who was the first of three consecutive stakes winners produced from the Dancing Champ mare Ring Dancer, began his stallion career at Rockburn in Virginia. For his career, he sired just 67 foals, 27 of which were winners. He is buried at Middle Creek.