12/07/2004 12:00AM

Storm Bird, sire of Storm Cat, dies at 26


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Storm Bird, a champion juvenile and one of Northern Dancer's most influential sons as the sire of Storm Cat, has died at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky.

The stallion, whose death was first reported by The Blood-Horse, was euthanized Dec. 3 after colicking. He was 26.

Storm Bird was one of the most talented products of E.P. Taylor's Windfields breeding program, which also produced Northern Dancer. Storm Bird was purchased as a yearling for $1 million by Coolmore associate Robert Sangster at the start of the sale boom for Northern Dancer colts. He developed into England and Ireland's champion juvenile in 1980 with trainer Vincent O'Brien. A dashing bay colt, Storm Bird won England's Dewhurst Stakes that year and also captured Ireland's National, Anglesey, and Larkspur stakes.

His racing career was brief but had its share of drama. After his sparkling 2-year-old season, Storm Bird was a top prospect for the classics, but physical ailments kept him on the sidelines. He was also victimized in a strange attack when someone - believed by many to be a disgruntled employee of O'Brien's Ballydoyle operation - sheared off the colt's mane and much of his tail.

In the end, Storm Bird raced only once at 3, finishing off the board in France's Prix du Prince d'Orange.

Retired to Ashford Stud after winning five of six lifetime starts and $162,869 in purses, Storm Bird quickly showed his worth as a stallion. His most impressive contribution to the breed, the highly fashionable sire Storm Cat, was from Storm Bird's first crop, foaled in 1983. A Grade 1 winner at 2, Storm Cat has gone on to be one of the era's most sought-after stallions and has led or been among the North American sire list's leaders for six of the last 10 years. Now commanding a $500,000 stud fee at Overbrook Farm in Lexington, Storm Cat has fueled an upsurge in the market for select, seven-figure yearlings from the mid-1990's to today in much the same way his grandsire, Northern Dancer, did in the 1980's.

Storm Bird went on to sire champions Indian Skimmer, an international champion and still her sire's richest runner with more than $1.4 million in earnings; Balanchine, winner of the 1994 Irish Derby and Epsom Oaks; Irish 2000 Guineas winner and champion miler Prince of Birds; and Irish champion sprinter Bluebird, also a successful sire.

In North America, Storm Bird is also well known as sire of 1990 Preakness Stakes winner, Kentucky Derby runner-up, and millionaire Summer Squall. Summer Squall also has become a noteworthy sire, thanks to 1999 Horse of the Year Charismatic, winner of that season's Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and to Storm Song, the champion juvenile filly of 1996.

Storm Bird's other top runners include Grade 1 winners Classy Mirage, Personal Hope, Pacific Squall, and numerous other graded-stakes performers. At his death, Storm Bird was the sire of more than 60 stakes winners from 18 crops to race, according to The Jockey Club. He had progeny earnings of $30,136,925, and his best son at stud, Storm Cat, ranked fourth on the general sires' list.

Storm Bird was out of the New Providence mare South Ocean, making him a full brother to Canadian champion Northernette and a half-brother to stakes winner Ocean's Answer.

Ashford manager Dermot Ryan did not return a call seeking comment on the sire.