It's been a rough week for American classic winners.
Louis Quatorze, winner of the 1996 Preakness Stakes (G1) and placed in five other grade 1 stakes, including the Breeders' Cup Classic, died of an apparent heart attack in his paddock at Murmur Farm two days before the death of dual classic winner Charismatic.
The 24-year-old son of Sovereign Dancer—On to Royalty, by On to Glory, was being called to the gate of his paddock after being out the morning of Feb. 17. As he galloped across the paddock to the gate, he collapsed and died immediately. He has been buried at Murmur Farm near Darlington, Md.
"Even considering that he was 24, it was heartbreaking," said Audrey Murray, owner of Murmur Farm. "He was so regal and majestic. When we would show him, he would stand there like he knew he'd won the Preakness."
Murray and her late husband E. Allen Murray Jr. bought Louis Quatorze from Ashford Stud in October 2003. A few years earlier the Murrays lost their grade 1-winning stallion Norquestor, so they were looking for a replacement.
"He was a beautiful horse, he had won the Preakness, and earned more than $2 million, so we thought he would be a good horse for Maryland," Murray said. "We syndicated him and sold 30 shares in two weeks. We kept 10."
Graded stakes-winning millionaire Choctaw Nation helped jump-start Louis Quatorze's Mid-Atlantic sire career. In 2004 when the stallion started standing at Murmur Farm, Choctaw Nation won five of six starts, including the San Diego Handicap (G2). The gelding out of Melisma (Well Decorated) won the San Diego Handicap again in 2005 and finished third that year in the Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (G1).
Louis Quatorze was bred in Kentucky by Georgia Hofmann, who offered him at the 1994 Keeneland July select yearling sale but took him back home after the hammer fell at $225,000. Hofmann ended up racing the colt in partnership with William Condren and Joseph Cornacchia.
His racing career showed immediate promise, with second-place finishes in the Hopeful Stakes and the Futurity Stakes (both G1). Trained by Nick Zito, Louis Quatorze finished second in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) leading up the Kentucky Derby (G1), where racing luck didn't go his way. He was bumped early in the Derby and was never better than 10th throughout the race.
Zito said Louis Quatorze came "bouncing" out of the Derby and didn't seem tired. After a thorough vetting, the trainer sent him on to Pimlico Race Course, where he thrived. He won the Preakness on a packed muddy track in a then-record-tying 1:53.43, equal to Tank's Prospect's final time of 1:53 2/5 in 1985.
It was Zito's first—and to date only—Preakness victory. Jockey Pat Day secured his fifth and final Preakness win with Louis Quartoze, capping a stretch of three straight wins in the Baltimore classic following victories aboard Timber Country and Tabasco Cat.
Louis Quatorze went on to win the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2), and finished second in the Travers Stakes (G1). He was also second in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), where he finished a nose behind Alphabet Soup and a head in front of Cigar.
He retired with a 7-5-1 record out of 18 starts and earnings of $2,054,434.
As a stallion, Louis Quatorze sired 36 black-type stakes winners, of which 12 won graded/group stakes. He had two champions—French Academy, a champion 3-year-old in Trindad, and Ivan C, a multiple champion in the Dominican Republic.
Louis Quatorze ranked as the second-leading Maryland sire in 2005 and 2006 behind perennial leader Not For Love, and was steadily among the top five sires through 2011.