by Avalyn Hunter
The king is not quite dead, or even on his deathbed. Storm Cat, the leader of American commercial sires for most of the last decade, is very much alive and is slated to continue in stud service in 2008. But for the second consecutive year, Storm Cat finished second rather than first among leading sires by average at the Keeneland September select yearling sale, and this year, Storm Cat averaged less than half what he did in 2006 ($559,773 vs. $1,270,208). As a result, speculation as to who will assume the old king’s mantle is off and running.
The heir apparent at the top of the commercial market is A.P. Indy, who averaged $858,043 per yearling to lead the select session. But determining the heir to Storm Cat’s individual legacy is not quite so simple. Although Storm Cat has many sons who have enjoyed at least a taste of success, none have displayed quite the prowess of their sire, who is the leading active sire in North America by number of stakes winners (155, or 12.7% of foals of racing age), number of graded/group stakes winners (96, or 7.8%), and number of grade I winners (32, or 2.6%).
Of Storm Cat’s active sons, Forestry has come the closest to his sire in percentage of stakes winners. His first four crops, totaling 295 foals age 3 and up, have so far yielded 146 winners (49.5%), 28 stakes winners (9.5%), and 10 graded stakes winners (3.4%). The big masculine bay has also been consistently popular at the sales even without considering The Green Monkey, whose $16-million pricetag as a 2-year-old in training remains the world’s record for a Thoroughbred at auction. As of September 17, Forestry has a lifetime yearling sales average of $242,811 (median $170,000) – if not the equal of his sire, still quite solid. His figures for 2007 have not been as good, however; through Sept. 18, Forestry’s 2007 yearlings have averaged $178,957 with a median price of $150,000.
Although a good sire of stakes winners, Forestry has not come close to equaling Storm Cat as a sire of the "big horse." He has sired a truly brilliant runner in Discreet Cat and has two other grade I winners to his credit but has yet to get either a recognized champion or divisional highweight in a major racing nation or a winner of a European or American Classic race. In contrast, Storm Cat’s first four crops, totaling 186 named foals, included champions or highweights Mistle Cat, Catrail, and Munaaji, 1994 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Tabasco Cat, and five other grade I winners.
Giant’s Causeway, on the other hand, has sired one champion – Shamardal – and two Classic winners in Shamardal and Footstepsinthesand, both members of his first crop. Currently represented in 2007 by eight graded stakes winners as well as this year’s winner of the Queen’s Plate, Mike Fox, Giant’s Causeway has sired 20 graded or group stakes winners from the 575 foals in his first three crops of racing age (foals 3 years old and up). All told, he has sired six grade/group I winners including My Typhoon (Ire), who is among the leaders of the 2007 North American turf female division.
Giant’s Causeway has not been as consistent as Forestry, however. His 32 stakes winners and 230 winners from his first three crops constitute only 5.5% and 40%, respectively, of his named foals. While these percentages should improve somewhat as his career progresses, they are hardly exceptional. He has also been less consistent as a sales sire than Forestry; while he sports a higher lifetime yearling average ($251,076), his median is $150,000. (His 2007 sales figures have been stronger, however: Through Sept. 18, Giant’s Causeway’s yearlings have averaged $293,338 with a median of $210,000.)
Storm Cat has a number of other sons who have had some measure of success, among them Tale of the Cat, Stormy Atlantic , and Forest Wildcat. None, however, wield the commercial clout that Forestry and Giant’s Causeway do, and none are getting the kind of mare support that Storm Cat’s top two sons have received. Johannesburg, however, may be in position to mount a challenge for supremacy in the Storm Cat male line.
A son of Storm Cat’s late son Hennessy, Johannesburg was the champion juvenile in both Europe and North America in 2001, guaranteeing that he would receive a good opportunity at stud. He has certainly had quantity and solid if not stellar quality (Comparable Index 1.84, compared to 3.09 for Forestry and 3.55 for Giant’s Causeway) among his mates, as current statistics from The Jockey Club show 264 foals in his first crop of racing age. With three months to go in 2007, those foals, now 3-year-olds, have yielded 10 stakes winners (seven of graded/group-winning class) headed by multiple grade I winner Scat Daddy.
Ten stakes winners from 264 foals is not an overwhelming percentage, but it must be remembered that many of these foals are still racing and will have further chances to earn black type. The key to the future, however, will be the mares that Johannesburg attracts based on the successes of this first crop. If his new mates are of higher quality than those he has had so far – and if he shows that he can deliver on improved opportunities – Johannesburg should see his stock rising both on the track and in the sales ring.
Storm Cat has a number of other young sons and grandsons who are either just starting their stallion careers or are still on the track, and one of these may prove a worthy successor. But for the time being, the male line of Storm Cat appears to be in a solid but not dominant position in the commercial market and in North American breeding.