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Sparkman: Stormy Atlantic strikes a balance
What is the most propitious balance between racing ability and pedigree in choosing a stallion? Over the long haul, demonstrated racing ability wins, but can be very expensive for breeders to buy.
Among stallion prospects with less-than-championship race records but outstanding pedigrees, it can also be difficult to determine just how talented a horse was. Would Mr. Prospector with his two track records or Danzig with his unbeaten record have been champions had their careers not been interrupted and then stopped by ankle chips and slab knee fractures, respectively?
Absent inside knowledge, there would have been no way of knowing whether there were similar mitigating factors in Stormy Atlantic’s race record when he retired to stud at Bridlewood Farm in Florida in 1999, but there was no doubting the quality of his pedigree. And while Stormy Atlantic has not achieved the status of a Mr. Prospector or a Danzig, his record as a sire has been more in keeping with the quality of his pedigree than that of his race record. Stormy Lucy, one of his 85 stakes winners from 1,260 foals age 3 and up (6.7 percent), became his 32nd graded or group stakes winner with her victory in the Grade 2 Santa Ana Stakes on March 16.
Bred and raced by Arthur Appleton’s Bridlewood Farm, Stormy Atlantic, by dual leading sire Storm Cat, was the third foal of his dam, Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks winner Hail Atlantis, by Triple Crown winner and leading sire Seattle Slew. Bred by Claiborne Farm and the late William Haggin Perry’s Gamely Corp., Hail Atlantis was one of an astounding number of Grade 1- or Group 1-level racehorses descending from her third dam, foundation mare Rough Shod II.
Purchased in England and imported by A.B. “Bull” Hancock Jr. on behalf of U.S. Steel executive Thomas Girdler, Rough Shod II produced champions Moccasin and Ridan. Undefeated champion 2-year-old filly in 1965 and Horse of the Year in one poll, Moccasin produced another champion and good sire in Apalachee, by Round Table, as well as six other stakes winners, including Hail Atlantis’s dam, Flippers, by Coastal.
Rough Shod II’s best son, Ridan, by Nantallah, was only modestly successful at stud, but his stakes-winning full brother Lt. Stevens was a solid stallion, and sons of Rough Shod II’s daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters established her descendants as one of the two best “sire families” of the late 20th century. Sadler’s Wells and his three-quarter brother Nureyev qualify as all-time greats, and Fairy King is not far off that mark. Topsider and Thatch made important contributions to the breed, and less-celebrated descendants of Rough Shod II like Cutlass, Bayou Hebert, Storm Boot, Geiger Counter, Bachelor Duke, Numerous, and Perugino all were much better sires than their race records indicated they should be. More recently, Australia’s Northern Meteor (inbred 6x4 to Rough Shod II through the full sisters Thong and Moccasin) and Germany’s Soldier Hollow have further enhanced the Rough Shod II family’s sire-producing reputation.
Stormy Atlantic’s profile as a racehorse was well below championship caliber, but at least showed he possessed above-average ability. He raced only once at 2, finishing sixth as the favorite in a six-furlong maiden at Belmont Park in September 1996. The fact that he did not race again for more than a year very likely indicates that physical issues compromised his racing career.
Second on his return to the races as a 3-year-old on Dec. 23, 1997, he raced 13 more times over the next 12 months, winning six races, including the
5 1/2-furlong Havre de Grace Stakes at Pimlico and the six-furlong Damitrius Stakes at Delaware Park. He ran only once in a graded stakes, and caught an amazingly tough field in the Grade 3 Finger Lakes Breeders’ Cup Stakes. Stormy Atlantic, a confirmed front-runner, chased in third as multiple Grade 2 winner Kelly Kip and multiple Grade 1 winner Affirmed Success dueled on the lead. Stormy Atlantic faded to fifth behind that pair, Group 3 winner Lucayan Prince and New York-bred champ Say Florida Sandy.
As a son of Storm Cat from Rough Shod II’s family, though, Stormy Atlantic was worth a try at stud, and he retired to Bridlewood’s Florida base in 1999. A well-made, lengthy horse whose physique incorporates many of the good qualities of both his sire and broodmare sire, Seattle Slew, and few of their faults, he has pretty consistently sired horses in his own handsome image.
Amazingly enough, a filly from his first crop out of Super Chef, by Seattle Slew (and thus inbred 3x2 to Seattle Slew) set a world record for a juvenile filly at public auction when the late Ahmed bin Salman outbid Demi O’Byrne for her by paying $1.9 million at the 2002 Barretts March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training. Under the name Atlantic Ocean, she helped get Stormy Atlantic off to the best possible start, winning the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes at 2 and the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes at 3.
That fast start at both the racetrack and the auction ring encouraged John G. Sikura of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Lexington, Ky., to purchase an interest in the horse in 2003 and move him to Kentucky, where he has flourished each succeeding season. His first Grade 1 winner, Stormello (out of Wilshewed, by Carson City), appeared in his first Kentucky-conceived crop, and he has since sired top-level winners Get Stormy (Foolish Gal, by Kiri’s Clown), Next Question (Seattle Stardust, by Slew City Slew), and Up With the Birds (Song of the Lark, by Seeking the Gold).
Stormy Lucy may eventually prove good enough to become Stormy Atlantic’s fifth Grade 1 winner. Bred in Kentucky by Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable, she is the second live foal out of Here Comes Lucinda, by the outstanding broodmare sire Dixieland Band. Here Comes Lucinda showed little ability as a racemare, placing once in nine starts spread over four racing seasons, but she is a half-sister to three pretty good racehorses out of the multiple-stakes-placed Red Ransom mare Lucinda K.
Lucinda K’s daughter Moonwalk, by Malibu Moon, won the Grade 3 Jessamine Stakes, and Thatswhatimean, by Belong to Me, captured the listed China Doll Stakes and placed in graded stakes. But the most talented of Lucinda K’s offspring was without doubt Atswhatimtalknbout, by A.P. Indy, who finished second, beaten a nose by Buddy Gil, in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes. Atswhatimtalknbout’s best effort, however, was his last, when he closed furiously down the stretch to finish fourth, beaten barely two lengths by Funny Cide, in the 2003 Kentucky Derby.
There is not much else close up in Stormy Lucy’s pedigree to offer encouragement, but, like so much else that has proved of lasting merit in the American Stud Book, she traces to one of the mares selected by William Allison for James R. Keene in England in the 1890s and early 1900s. Stormy Lucy’s 12th dam, Sandfly, by Isonomy, is the second dam of champion Luke McLuke, by Ultimus, and third dam of Sting, by Spur, one of the links in the male-line chain that leads to Dr. Fager, Holy Bull, and Mucho Macho Man.
In addition to his list of Grade 1 winners, Stormy Atlantic’s roll of honor includes Canadian champions Leonnatus Anteas (South Sea Blues, by Cure the Blues) and Maritimer (Highland Mood, by Highland Ruckus), and he topped the juvenile sire list in 2006. His progeny are notably versatile, scoring graded victories on all three surfaces.
Stormy Atlantic has crossed well with a wide variety of broodmare sires, but perhaps not as well with Mr. Prospector-line horses as might be expected, with the exception of Carson City, broodmare sire of Stormello and graded winners California Nectar and My Best Brother. He has benefited from inbreeding to Seattle Slew through Atlantic Ocean, Grade 1 winner Next Question, and graded winner His Race to Win. Two of his best offspring, multiple Grade 1 winner Get Stormy (4x5 to Moccasin) and Puerto Rican champion Storm Allied (5x5 to Rough Shod), are inbred to his own great female family.
The success of a horse with the racing and pedigree qualifications of Stormy Atlantic cannot, of course, definitively answer the question of whether racing performance or pedigree is more important to stallion success. The safest answer to that question is, of course, “Both, please.”
His record, however, does explain, and justify to some extent, why breeders are so often willing to give horses with great pedigrees but questionable race records a chance. The right horse rewards them just often enough to keep them coming back.