2008 Commercial Sires: Big 'Cat' Rebound

2008 Commercial Sires: Big 'Cat' Rebound
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Storm Cat

Storm Cat has been a titan among North America’s commercial sires, and he added to his considerable reputation in 2008, leading all stallions based on the average price of their yearlings sold at public auction for the sixth time in his breeding career. He returned to the top following a two-year break during which he fell to second behind Danzig in 2006 and ranked third behind A.P. Indy and Kingmambo in 2007.

A 26-year-old son of Storm Bird, Storm Cat was No. 1 for five consecutive years: 2001-2005, and he ranked second to Mr. Prospector in the four preceding years.

Storm Cat’s 22 yearlings sold at public auction in 2008 grossed $15,120,000 and averaged $687,273. They ranged in price from $100,000 to $2 million. A.P. Indy dropped to second among stallions with three or more yearlings sold. The average for his 30 progeny was $581,333.

The average for Storm Cat yearlings peaked at $1,763,750 in 2005, but declined to $1,255,400 in 2006 and plunged to $544,039 in 2007 as the stallion aged and the Thoroughbred market began to slow from its record rise.

“A large number of his yearlings were exposed to the market in 2007, and he just didn’t have any that were breakaways,” said Ric Waldman, a consultant who managed Storm Cat’s stallion career at the Young family’s Overbrook Farm in Kentucky. “You have to assume that he just didn’t have a good crop or he just didn’t have the yearlings the buyers wanted that year. But the fact he came back in 2008 is not a big surprise to me. There is no reason to think that because he loses it for one year or two years that he’s lost it forever.”

Ironically, an average below seven figures for Storm Cat yearlings in 2007 might have helped the stallion return to the No. 1 ranking in 2008, according to Waldman.

“Up until 2007, many yearling buyers thought a Storm Cat yearling was out of their range,” Waldman explained. “I think 2007 showed the buyers that a Storm Cat yearling wasn’t necessarily out of their reach, so, perhaps with his 2008 yearling crop, there were more buyers who felt like they had a realistic shot to buy one.”

And more interested shoppers created more competition, raising prices.

Storm Cat was pensioned from stud duty because of declining fertility in May of 2008. But Waldman didn’t think that development boosted the stallion’s yearling prices by making people realize their opportunity to purchase his progeny would soon be coming to an end.

“I honestly don’t think that helped because when a horse is pensioned, he is out of the public eye,” Waldman said. “There can be a rare exception, when a buyer’s attitude might be ‘well, there aren’t going to be many more of them, so I might as well go after this nice one.’ But, typically, once a horse is retired, there is less interest in him.”

The Jockey Club’s 2008 Report of Mares Bred showed that Storm Cat covered 96 mares in 2007, and they produced 61 foals. He covered 32 mares in 2008, and Waldman said only three got in foal.

Three stallions standing at Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation in Kentucky—Bernardini, Street Cry, and Hard Spun  —were the 2008 leaders in four other commercial sire categories.

Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Bernardini (by A.P. Indy), the champion 3-year-old male of 2006, was the No. 1 sire of sale weanlings and the No. 1 first-crop sire of sale weanlings. His six offspring averaged $456,667. His daughter out of the Storm Cat mare Teeming was the most expensive weanling sold in North America for 2008, bringing $1.475 million.

“We were overwhelmed with demand for him,” said Charlie Boden, Darley America’s stallion nominations manager. “The first week after the announcement that he had been retired, we stopped counting at 250 submissions of mares. His first book of (133) mares had 64 grade I winners or producers in it.”

Street Cry was the leading sire of sale 2-year-olds with an average of $811,667 for his three progeny that sold. Grade I winner Hard Spun led all first-crop covering sires, with 14 mares in foal to him selling for an average of $356,571. Another Darley stallion, Street Sense, who defeated Hard Spun by 21⁄4 lengths in the 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and finished ahead of Hard Spun in the same year’s Preakness, ranked second, with nine mares covered by the classic winner averaging $322,222.

Distorted Humor  , who stands at Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm in Kentucky, was the leading covering sire. Four mares that were sold while in foal to him averaged $1,750,000. Ghostzapper, the 2004 Horse of the Year standing at the Kentucky division of Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs operation, was the top first-crop sire of yearlings, with 34 progeny averaging $283,765. And Tapit  , who stands at the Beck family’s Gainesway Farm in Kentucky, was the leading first-crop sire of 2-year-olds, with 18 offspring averaging $412,139.

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