08/09/2002 12:00AM

Storm Cat reigns even in down market


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The Storm Cat mystique hurtles on without regard to economic indicators or political uncertainties, and the most commercially accepted stallion in the world today sired the highest-priced lot at Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga select yearling sale this week. Not only is Storm Cat the sire of the highest-selling lot, a chestnut filly out of champion racemare Sacahuista, who went for $1.3 million, but he also is the sire of the $3.8 million colt who was bought back at the chic auction held in New York's upstate spa.

The top-selling filly is a handsome young athlete with a blaze down her face that gives her a dramatic appearance, and her arrival in the Saratoga pavilion brought all eyes her way. Opening at $1 million, the filly sold quickly, and John Sikura, owner of Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Lexington, Ky., signed the ticket for her.

"She had all the ingredients to make her desirable for me both as a racehorse and as a broodmare," Sikura said. "She is by a leading sire out of a Breeders' Cup winner. She is very nimble and athletic, and she comes from the very prepotent family of Nalee."

As Sikura said, the filly descends from the important female family of Nalee, tracing back to Bourtai and her dam, Escutcheon, who began an immense family with a long history of producing top racers and broodmares.

The sale-topping filly at Saratoga is out of champion Sacahuista, a daughter of Raja Baba, who won the Breeders' Cup Distaff during her championship season. In addition, she won the Grade 1 Spinster and Oak Leaf Stakes, as well as the Grade 2 Adirondack and Schuylerville. A top-class race filly, Sacahuista won six races at 2 and 3, earning nearly $1.3 million.

Her most successful offspring to date is the European group stakes winner Ekraar, by Red Ransom. Sacahuista sold to Horse France in 1997, when she brought $510,000 at the Keeneland November sale while in foal to A.P. Indy. Pacelco S.A., Chelston Ireland, bred the high-priced filly.

In addition to a champion dam, the Storm Cat filly has distinguished racehorses and producers in every generation. Her second dam is Nalees Flying Flag, an unraced daughter of Hoist the Flag and Nalee, who also was a celebrated racehorse and broodmare. Nalees Flying Flag produced stakes winner Far Flying, the dam of Dalhart and granddam of Geri; stakes-placed Johns Treasure, who ran second in the Belmont Stakes; and Letty's Pennant, a stakes-placed mare who produced the Seattle Slew mare Pennant Fever, dam of the top-class Storm Cat filly Raging Fever and her full brother, Stormin Fever, a stakes winner who is also a promising young sire.

Nalee produced three stakes winners, including Irish St. Leger winner Meneval, and she won the Black-Eyed Susan during her career on the track, as well as running second in the Spinaway at 2 and the Acorn Stakes at 3.

By Nashua, Nalee is one of four stakes winners out of Levee, a daughter of Hill Prince and Bourtai. Nalee is a full sister to Shuvee, winner of the CCA Oaks and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Their dam, Levee, also won the CCA Oaks and is one of four stakes-winning mares out of Bourtai. The three others are the major producers Delta, Banta, and Bayou. This is a family of exceptional depth and quality, and not surprisingly, acquiring a daughter of Storm Cat from a family such as this was a major coup for Sikura.

"We think that market conditions provided an opportunity for us to buy this filly," he said. "In another market, another year, she would have been a $2 million filly."

The filly is an attractive chestnut who is only now beginning to mature and strengthen. Consignor Tom Van Meter of Eaton Sales said that the filly "is rock hard. She didn't have one ounce of fat on her."

Unlike some of the sales yearlings who already have gone through a growth spurt and begun to put on some condition, the sales-leading filly was still rather spare but with a pleasing frame and look.

Her color and general appearance made the Sacahuista filly look rather like a young Sharp Cat, one of Storm Cat's early Grade 1 winners who was purchased and raced by the late Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corp. Had Salman been at Saratoga, this filly would doubtless have been on his list of prospects.

In this instance, as well as in other short- and long-term considerations, the loss of a young breeder and racing enthusiast like Salman will have serious repercussions for the sport and for the horse business. Van Meter said, "We surely are missing the Prince. He was a big buyer here last year. He bought $4 million worth of horses from us alone."

Considering also that both Coolmore and Godolphin have been noticeably less active at the summer sales, the impact on the overall market has been very significant. The result has been a quieter than expected sale at Saratoga, and in all likelihood, people will look back in a few years and wonder how they missed such opportunities in a buyer's market that only the tremendous appeal of Storm Cat could overcome.