08/09/2001 11:00PM

Storm Cat, hot as ever, brings cool millions

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - There's a big cat stalking the select yearling sales. Storm Cat, the brawny dark bay son of Secretariat's daughter Terlingua and Northern Dancer's son Storm Bird, is the most commercially popular stallion in the world. And when his most promising yearling colts and fillies come into the ring, owners and breeders bid immense sums to secure them.

Last year, his chestnut son out of Hum Along brought not only the highest price at the Keeneland September yearling sale but also the highest price of 2000 for any yearling.

In addition, Storm Cat sired the top-priced lot at the Keeneland July selected sale in 1999, and an athletic chestnut daughter of his brought the highest price at the Saratoga selected yearling auction in 1998. Now, he has the highest-priced colt at the 2001 Saratoga yearling sale, which ended a three-day run on Thursday, as well as the fourth-highest lot at Saratoga.

The largest price at the auction, $3.3 million, was paid for a full brother to the 1998 Saratoga sale-topper. That chestnut filly out of the Gone West mare Gone to Venus was later named Saudi Poetry. This year, she won the Grade 2 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap at Churchill Downs on the same day as the Kentucky Oaks.

Clearly, that did no harm to her full brother, who was offered as Hip No. 88 at Saratoga. Although a dark bay, the full brother had some of the same presence as his sister. An athletic and rather elegant Storm Cat, Saudi Poetry had a good-sized frame and was an impressive filly when she was shown at the Taylor Made consignment at Saratoga three years ago.

Without any siblings to indicate her dam's ability as a producer, Saudi Poetry brought $1.7 million from Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corp. An attractive filly with more scope than some Storm Cats, Saudi Poetry attracted the Thoroughbred Corp. because of her likeness to another daughter of Storm Cat, the multiple Grade 1 winner Sharp Cat.

Thoroughbred Corp. had purchased Sharp Cat and won major stakes races across the country with the tough and exciting filly. A winner of the Acorn, Beldame, and other prestigious events, Sharp Cat earned more than $2 million and, in effect, underwrote the purchase of Saudi Poetry.

Both Saudi Poetry and her full brother were bred by Ed and Patricia Pavlish, and after seeing the kind of yearling filly that Saudi Poetry developed into (and seeing the buyers' reaction to her in 1998), the Pavlishes sent Gone to Venus back for more of that good stuff from Storm Cat.

Bred to that stallion in 1999, Gone to Venus produced the full brother to Saudi Poetry in 2000. In between, she had colts by Seattle Slew (the 3-year-old De Milo) and his son Capote (the 2-year-old Aeneas).

The breeders were understandably proud of their mare and her offspring, and they thought this colt was special, quite on a par with his illustrious sister. With the colt's looks and with Saudi Poetry's racing performances to substantiate the success of this cross, the buyers at Saratoga wholeheartedly agreed, and bloodstock consultant John Ferguson bid $3.3 million to secure the colt for Godolphin.

Although the principals of Godolphin have not announced whether the colt will race in the United States or in Europe, this decision should matter little to the colt's success. As the offspring of Storm Cat have proven, they are equally adept at racing on either turf or dirt and under both American and European conditions.

This is one of the many reasons that buyers have become so enamored of Storm Cat's offspring. In addition to their versatility, the sons of Storm Cat are among the most sought-after prospects for stud. This significantly increases their value and makes them more difficult to purchase as foals and yearlings.

Both Saudi Poetry and her brother (as well as the two Saratoga sales-toppers in between them) were prepared for the sale and consigned through Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky. Only last month, the Taylor family had taken the Keeneland July select yearling sale by storm, selling a handsome son of their home stallion Saint Ballado for $4 million.

Taylor Made also stands the promising young stallion Unbridled's Song and two sons of Storm Cat, Forestry and Exploit.