07/19/2012 2:22PM

Storm Cat: Checking in on a living legend

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Barbara D. Livingston
Storm Cat won the the Grade 1 Young America and was a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 1985 for owner/breeder William T. Young before embarking on his career as a stallion.

He is no longer led, prancing, from his paddock to the breeding shed. Sales pavilions no longer echo with invigorating auctioneers’ sing-song as his yearlings sell for seven-digit figures. And Overbrook Farm, which he helped thrust into the international racing spotlight, dispersed its stock more than two years ago.

Storm Cat – now 29 – is a living legend, residing far from the spotlight at his Overbrook home in Lexington, Ky.

I first saw him as a 2-year-old at Saratoga and grew to admire and love him during his unparalleled stud career. Among my favorite memories is a day in 2006 when I photographed him at work – on his way to the breeding shed, in the shed, and when he went back to his paddock. And since his pensioning, in 2008, I’ve often thought about him and wondered what his days were like. And so, on June 22, I visited Overbrook Farm.

There, a bevy of farm-related folk watch over him, from Chris Young, the grandson of Overbrook founder William T. Young, to the farm veterinarian, Dr. Robert Copelan, to Armando Reyes, who once worked in the farm’s stallion barn. And then there is Eduardo Terrazas, who visits with his beloved old friend daily and brings him peppermints.

Terrazas joined Overbrook’s team in 1986, when he was 16 and Storm Cat was 3. Terrazas worked with Storm Cat when the farm’s stallion roster numbered two. One was a proven commodity named The Minstrel. The other was Storm Cat.

“And then during the 1990s, the stallion barn filled up,” Terrazas said. “We had Carson City join us, and Mountain Cat [Storm Cat’s son], and then others. All of a sudden, we had a couple of barns full.”

Terrazas knows the inside story about the Overbrook stallions, especially Storm Cat, who commanded a fee of $500,000 at the height of his popularity and was sire of the year five times.

Early on, Storm Cat kicked at his stall walls when mares were brought to be bred to other stallions, and Terrazas feared the stallion might injure himself. He recommended the stallions be left in their paddocks and just be led up to be bred, a system that worked well.

Terrazas remembers that Storm Cat’s son Mountain Cat loved to have his tongue pulled, and, if you gave Storm Cat’s son Tabasco Cat a peppermint, you could come back in an hour and he’d still be sucking on it. He also remembers that Storm Cat was all business in the breeding shed – “a 10-second man,” he said.

Nowadays, Storm Cat has all the time in the world while his sons such as Giant’s Causeway, Tale of the Cat, and Bluegrass Cat are the ones getting the mares.

Storm Cat lives in a small barn, styled like an old tobacco barn – no frills but very sturdy, with roomy stalls and lots of ventilation. He eats hay (an 80 percent alfalfa mixture) and regular feed – he doesn’t care for the senior variety. His keepers allow him to eat as much as he wants, up to eight quarts in a day.

“It’s not like he’s a glutton,” Terrazas said. “He never has been. He might go down there and eat a few bites right now, and an hour later he’ll go and get another two or three bites.”

Storm Cat’s stall opens into an expansive three-and-a-half-acre paddock and, for the most part, he comes and goes as he pleases. But if the forecast calls for a 40 percent or greater chance of thunderstorms, either Terrazas or Reyes brings him in. An oversized fan is turned on in front of his stall door on hot days, and Storm Cat stands close by. He hates the heat.

This particular barn was chosen, in part, due to its proximity to a main farm road. People pass by regularly and everyone, it seems, wants to keep an eye on the resident star. Even Terrazas’s daughters, who range in age from 9 to 16, bring apples, carrots, and peppermints to ‘Stormy.’

Storm Cat has a barn mate named Clock Stopper, the only other Overbrook horse still on the property. Clock Stopper, a multiple stakes winner, is a blazed-faced chestnut gelding. The day of my visit, Clock Stopper seemed more interested in Storm Cat than Storm Cat was in Clock Stopper. But it was nice to see the two horses together, seemingly enjoying each other’s company.

The morning of my visit was sweltering, and Storm Cat, relaxed in his stall, was aimed squarely at his fan. Terrazas led him outdoors for a few photos, and the old stallion stood patiently. Terrazas smiled and offered an open-fisted palm, which Storm Cat immediately began gnawing at. The horse seemed downright pleased.

Rumors of Storm Cat’s stormy temper?

“You know, that’s always been a touchy subject for me,” Terrazas said. “And the reason I say this is because this horse, in all the time I had him, never hurt anybody. He was always a feel-good horse. You take this horse, and he will not walk to his paddock, he will prance and dance.

“He does have that competitive thing. But as far as I know, other than a little bite, he never hurt anybody.”

Storm Cat is still an eyeful. The magnificent stallion looks far younger than 29, despite a slight sway to his back. He still sports a pronounced stallion crest, broad chest, powerful hind end, and a long, thick tail. His coat, mane, and tail are nearly black but, upon closer examination, feature a surprisingly rich palette of reddish-brown tones. His broad face is instantly recognizable, with its star trickling down his face into a small snip.

Although he is slimmer nowadays, he still carries good weight. He moves well. His eyes are still bright.

Terrazas worked at Overbrook from 1986 until 1999, then moved to a nearby farm to manage its burgeoning stallion division. He also began his own business – Terrazas Thoroughbreds – which offers boarding, foaling, and sales prep. When Overbrook dispersed its stock and leased out the farm, Terrazas moved his business there and was back watching over his old friend.

“It was just like coming home,” he said. “I’ll never forget what we accomplished. Even the years I wasn’t here, I always pulled for the green circle [of the Overbrook silks]. Every time you saw those silks, you knew you were a part of it.”

Storm Cat (1983 dark bay/brown horse by Storm Bird – Terlingua, by Secretariat) was a successful racehorse for breeder/owner William T. Young. The Jonathan Sheppard trainee won the Grade 1 Young America and was a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 2. He ran first and fourth in his two starts at age 3. His overall record was 8-4-3-0, with earnings of $570,610.

Storm Cat’s initial stud fee was $30,000, in 1988. The fee dipped to $20,000 for his third and fourth seasons. Upon the success of his offspring, first at the track and then at stud, it eventually reached an advertised fee of $500,000 and remained there for six seasons. When he was pensioned, the fee was $300,000.

Storm Cat’s highest priced sales yearling brought $9.7 million at the 2005 Keeneland September sale. At the same sale, an amazing seven of his yearlings sold for $3 million or more. Of his 22 sons and daughters to sell at that sale, the average price was more than $2 million.

Storm Cat was pensioned in 2008 and his final crop – which numbered three – arrived the next year. They are 3-year-olds this season.

Among Storm Cat’s countless descendants are the 2011 juvenile colt and filly champions Hansen and My Miss Aurelia.