05/14/2015 4:13PM

Sparkman: Leading sires have Mid-Atlantic heritage

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Barbara D. Livingston
Legendary sires Storm Cat (pictured above) and Danzig were both foaled in Pennsylvania.

For more than three decades, North America’s leading sire has stood in Kentucky. It was not always thus.

As recently as 1983, leading sire Halo stood at E.P. Taylor’s Windfields Farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, but that has been the last of a proud heritage of leading sires standing in the Mid-Atlantic region that began in 1875 with four-time leading sire Leamington, who stood at Aristides Welch’s Erdenheim Stud in Pennsylvania. Leamingon’s achievement was duplicated by Pennsylvania-based Rayon d’Or in 1889, but for most of the 20th century, the Mid-Atlantic breeding industry was centered in Maryland.

Challenger II, who stood at William L. Brann’s Branncastle Farm in Maryland, led the list in 1939, and the great Northern Dancer had moved from Canada to Windfields’s Maryland outpost at Chesapeake City by 1971 when he led the North American sire list.

Although no Mid-Atlantic-based stallion has led the list since Halo, two subsequent leading American sires were bred in Pennsylvania. Northern Dancer’s son Danzig was born in 1977 at Marshall Jenney’s Derry Meeting Farm near Cochranville, Pa., while Storm Cat was foaled six years later at Averell Walker’s Rolling Plains Stable near Unionville, Pa. Each of their dams, incidentally, was in Pennsylvania to be bred to Northern Dancer, who stood just south of the border in Maryland, that year. Danzig’s dam, Pas de Nom, was barren the following year, but Storm Cat’s dam, Terlingua, produced multiple Grade 2 winner Chapel of Dreams from her Northern Dancer cover.

Racing Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stevens paid $310,000 for Danzig on behalf of Henryk de Kwiatkowski at the 1978 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale, despite his slightly offset knees. Danzig clearly possessed graded stakes ability as a racehorse, but his knees would not allow him to stand much training or racing. He won his only start at 2 easily but came out of it with a fractured knee. He returned the following summer to win his two starts at 3 just as easily, but again suffered a slab fracture of a knee that forced his retirement.

Danzig’s stud career is justifiably legendary. Despite limited patronage early in his career because of his lack of stakes credentials, Danzig sired champion 2-year-old male Chief’s Crown and dual classics-placed Stephan’s Odyssey in his first crop, and Belmont Stakes winner Danzig Connection and English Group 1 winner and important sire Green Desert in his second crop.

Leading sire from 1991 through 1993 and in the top 10 on three other occasions, Danzig has sired 202 career stakes winners from 1,099 foals, an 18 percent ratio that puts leading contemporary stallions to shame. His male line has expanded globally through his foreign-based sons Danehill and Green Desert, and it has become increasingly well-represented recently in North America through War Front and Hard Spun, top American-raced sons who appeared very late in his stud career.

Like Danzig, Storm Cat had offset knees and was brilliant but unsound. Trained for his breeder, W.T. Young, by Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who is based in West Grove, Pa., Storm Cat won 3 of 6 starts at 2 in 1985, and missed a juvenile championship when he was caught in the last stride by Tasso, losing by a nose, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Storm Cat also suffered from knee problems after his juvenile season and won 1 of 2 starts at 3, but did not go to stud until his 5-year-old season in 1988. Like Danzig, he was not well-patronized early, but it did not matter. He sired Grade 1 Alabama winner November Snow in his first crop and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Desert Stormer in his second, and by 1999 he was leading sire for the first of two consecutive years.

Storm Cat has sired 181 career stakes winners from 1,452 foals, a 12.5 percent strike rate, and, like Danzig, his male line has become a global brand, mostly through his great son Giant’s Causeway, who has led the American sire list three times so far.

Male-line descendants of both Danzig and Storm Cat, especially the latter, are sprinkled across the Pennsylvania and Maryland landscape, and rank among the Mid-Atlantic’s most important sires. There are five sons of Storm Cat in the Mid-Atlantic region, headed by Group 3 winner Plan at Adena Springs at Heritage Stallions in Maryland and the veteran Lion Hearted at Northview Stallion Station in Maryland.

The beautifully bred Plan, son of Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner and former leading North American money-winning mare Spain, by Thunder Gulch, won the Group 3 International Stakes in Ireland, and has two small crops at the races.

Lion Hearted, out of Easy Goer’s Grade 1-winning full sister Cadillacing, also showed graded stakes ability on the racetrack, running second in the Grade 2 Riva Ridge and Grade 3 Amsterdam. He has been a reliable source of class in the region for more than a decade at Northview, siring 21 stakes winners, including Grade 3 winner Control System and Maryland Million winners Silver Heart, Roaring Lion, Lil Kiara, Call of a Lion, Maddy’s Heart, Creve Coeur, Serenadia, and Hear Us Roar.

Several of Storm Cat’s outstanding sire sons are also represented in the region. Giant’s Causeway’s multiple graded stakes-winning son Fairbanks is at Northview’s Pennsylvania outpost, while Forestry’s sons Etched and Golden Glen and Forest Wildcat’s sons In the Woods and Wildcat Brief also hold court in the region.

Danzig is still represented by four sons in the region, headed by veteran Maryland sire Outflanker at Shamrock Farm in Woodbine. An extremely well-bred half-brother to stakes winners Bite the Bullet and Shuailaan from the immediate family of great sire A.P. Indy, Outflanker has sired 24 stakes winners in his long career, headed by graded winners Bayou’s Lassie, Javerre, and Bushwacker.

Partner’s Hero, a Grade 2-winning half-brother to champion sprinter Safely Kept by Danzig, has been just as effective at Pennsylvania’s Castle Rock Farm, siring 21 stakes winners in a long and honorable career. Partner’s Hero’s list of top horses is headed by Grade 2 winners Heros Reward and New York Hero and Grade 3 winner Love Match.

It has been a while since the Mid-Atlantic region has been home to a leading sire, but the region’s native sons have sent back useful servants in their stead.