California Stallion Batonnier Dead

California stallion Batonnier, whose son Cavonnier nearly won the 1996 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and whose maternal grandson brought $4 million at the Keeneland July yearling sale, died July 15 of an apparent heart attack at Ellen Jackson's Victory Rose Thoroughbreds near Vacaville "He died in his pasture," Jackson said about the 26-year-old stallion. "He was healthy and got all seven of his mares in foal."

Bred in Florida by Mitchell Wolfson, Batonnier (His Majesty--Mira Femme, by Dumpty Humpty) initially raced for Ed Seltzer, then for the latter in partnership with Peter Brant. His big win, in the 1978 Illinois Derby (gr. III), came for Seltzer, and his stakes-placings for the two-man partnership included a runner-up effort in that year's Swaps Stakes (gr. I). Batonnier captured seven of 18 races and earned $232,105 before entering stud in 1980 at Preston Madden's Hamburg Place near Lexington.

Batonnier later was moved to Robert and Barbara Walter's Vine Hill Ranch in California, and it was there that he sired Cavonnier for the couple. Cavonnier captured the Santa Anita (gr. I) and El Camino Real (gr. III) Derbys in the first part of 1996, then gave the Walters a thrill beyond belief when he missed winning the Run for the Roses by a nose. Cavonnier earned $1,254,165 during his career.

Batonnier experienced fertility problems, and the Walters announced that he was pensioned following the 1997 breeding season. The couple donated him to the University of California at Davis, and he ended up at Victory Rose. Under the management of university reproduction specialist Dr. Irwin Liu, Battonier's fertility improved

Batonnier sired 20 stakes winners, including Charmonnier, whose big win came in the 1991 Wells Fargo Bank of California Cup Classic over California star Best Pal. His other added-money winners included Charm a Gendarme, dam of grade I winner and millionaire Tout Charmant. Charm a Gendarme's yearling colt by Saint Ballado went for $4 million at the recent Keeneland July sale.