02/28/2013 1:12PM

Bluegrass Cat: Leading New York sire by juvenile winners


Near the finish of the 2006 Travers, Bernardini looked every inch a champion, bounding along with the fierce grace of a leopard, his jockey slapping his neck in celebration half a furlong out from a 7 1/2-length victory. It may have seemed like a one-horse exhibition of greatness in the making, but Bernardini was far from alone on the track that day.

The chocolate bay who dogged him tenaciously around the far turn only to cross the wire a distant, fading second deserved accolades of his own − if people had only known. While Bluegrass Cat appeared weary and discouraged in the lengthening shadows of Saratoga’s fabled homestretch, he was, in fact, fighting valiantly just to finish the race. Which he did − on three good legs, a fractured pastern, and an outsized heart.

The colt was retired the next day after X-rays revealed a nondisplaced right hind fracture. Oh, what might have been.

“He was as good as any 3-year-old I’ve ever trained,” his multi-Eclipse Award-winning conditioner, Todd Pletcher, would say.

Well-spoken horsemen are sometimes used as promotional shills, programmed to hand out complimentary candy whenever a good horse retires to stud. But in this case, Pletcher’s words were more than just media malarkey.

WinStar Farm bred Bluegrass Cat, and racing in the farm’s colors he won the $1 million Haskell Invitational, ran second to Barbaro in the Kentucky Derby, and ran second in the Belmont. In 2007, he returned home to WinStar, in Versailles, Ky., where his fee was set at $50,000 and his platinum credentials were advertised in glowing terms. Grade 1-winning millionaires by Storm Cat, from distaff lines steeped in champions and noted sires, don’t come along every day.

Bluegrass Cat was well received, in Kentucky and later in Chile, where he shuttled in 2011-2012. His debut crop of 120 foals eventually showcased 22 juvenile winners of 2010, two graded stakes winners, and earners of $1.4 million, making him America’s second-leading freshman sire by progeny earnings. In 2011, Bluegrass Cat ranked second among second-crop sires.

For 2012, the young stallion was moved to New York as part of the Vinery/WinStar venture and now stands for a fee of $15,000 at Vinery at Sugar Maple Farm, in Poughquag, N.Y. He quickly established himself as a statistical kingpin in his new state, ranking first by number of juvenile winners (20), second by general and juvenile earnings, and third among synthetic and turf earnings.

Last season was the best yet for Bluegrass Cat. His 106 winners topped all North American third-crop sires, his most notable winner being classic contender Teeth of the Dog, winner of the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes. Bluegrass Cat was represented by four other stakes winners, eight stakes-placed runners, and combined earners of $4,420,219.

His three racing crops have to date produced 150 winners, 10 stakes winners (four graded/group), and 18 stakes-placed runners. More than 100 Bluegrass Cat juveniles are awaiting their turn on racing’s stage this year.

Bluegrass Cat has been a prolific sire of winners and a reliable source of precocity, though he has not yet succeeded in getting the “big horse.” That may come with time. At 10, Bluegrass Cat should have plenty of years in which to build on his already burgeoning résumé.

Leading juvenile sires by 2012 winners


1 Bluegrass Cat (2003, Storm Cat) Vinery New York at Sugar Maple $15,000 51 20
2 Frost Giant (2003, Giant's Causeway) Keane Stud Operations $7,500 15 12
3 Pomeroy (2001, Boundary) Vinery New York at Sugar Maple $5,000 17 9
4 Congaree (1998, Arazi) Highcliff Stallions at McMahon of Saratoga $7,500 19 8
5 Freud (1998, Storm Cat) Sequel Stallions New York $10,000 24 8
6 Bustin Stones (2004, City Zip) Waldorf Farm $2,500 17 7
7 El Corredor (1997, Mr. Greeley) Questroyal North $7,500 18 6
8 Sunriver (2003, Saint Ballado) Died 2009 15 5
9 Catienus (1994, Storm Cat) McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds $5,000 18 4
9 Mr. Sekiguchi (2003, Storm Cat) McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds $2,500 8 4
9 Posse (2000, Silver Deputy) Vinery New York at Sugar Maple $12,500 24 4
9 Touch Gold (1994, Deputy Minister) Adena Springs New York $7,500 15 4
9 Utopia (JPN) (2000, Forty Niner) McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds $5,000 24 4