09/17/2004 12:00AM

Storm Cat reigns over a rebounding market


LEXINGTON, Ky. - For the shootout at the Keeneland corral, Storm Cat had all the big guns. Not only did a powerful chestnut son of Storm Cat, the world's leading commercial sire, become the highest-priced yearling at the Keeneland September sale, but this year's leader was also the most expensive yearling ever sold at the September sale.

At the sale's second select session, held Tuesday, Japanese trainer Hideyuki Mori, acting as agent, bid $8 million for a Storm Cat colt out of a graded-stakes-winning half-sister to the classic winners and top sires A.P. Indy and Summer Squall.

The final hammer price was more than $1 million greater than the previous September sale high mark of $6.8 million that Coolmore paid for the Storm Cat colt Tasmanian Tiger at the September sale in 2000. Both Tasmanian Tiger and the current September heavyweight were sold by Will Farish's Lane's End, agent.

After this week's results, Lane's End now has sold the three most expensive colts at the September sale: the $8 million colt, Tasmanian Tiger, and Van Nistelrooy, another son of Storm Cat, who was the sale's leader in 2001 when he brought $6.4 million.

This year's sale-topping colt is out of the stakes-winning Seeking the Gold mare Welcome Surprise, and he also is the fourth most expensive yearling ever sold at public auction in North America.

Among his several points of distinction, the top lot in September is the most expensive yearling sold since the $8.25 million auction of a Northern Dancer yearling later named Imperial Falcon in 1984. A son of Ballade, he was a half-brother to champions Devil's Bag and Glorious Song.

Only two other yearlings ever have sold for more money: Snaafi Dancer (by Northern Dancer out of My Bupers, the dam of champion sprinter My Juliet) brought $10.2 million in 1983, and Seattle Dancer (by Nijinsky out of My Charmer, the dam of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and English classic winner Lomond) sold for $13.1 million in 1985.

As the relations of the previous colts would suggest, it takes a lot of pedigree to become an extremely high-priced sales yearling at the Keeneland auction. The colts above were all siblings to champions, and the $8 million colt is not an exception to the rule.

He is by the most popular stallion in the world today in Storm Cat and is out of the most prominent Lane's End family, which descends through the exceptional Secretariat mare Weekend Surprise and her dam, the Buckpasser mare Lassie Dear. The dam of Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, winner of the Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic, and Preakness winner Summer Squall, Weekend Surprise is important not only for the very high quality of her produce but also for the degree to which they have bred on.

Both A.P. Indy and Summer Squall have sired Horses of the Year (Mineshaft and Charismatic), and A.P. Indy is one of Storm Cat's principal rivals as top commercial stallion and as a sire of stallions. In addition, Weekend Surprise's stakes-placed son Honor Grades was a solid sire, and her nonwinning Storm Cat son Tiger Ridge has made some ripples with his first crop this year.

For her accomplishments as a breeding animal, Weekend Surprise was named the 1992 Broodmare of the Year. And among the daughters of Weekend Surprise, the most successful racer is Grade 3 stakes winner Welcome Surprise (by Seeking the Gold), whose first foal is the $8 million colt.

Welcome Surprise won 2 of her 9 career starts, including the Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs in 2000, and she earned $143,574 racing for a partnership that included Farish.

In addition to illustrating Storm Cat's importance in the commercial market, the results of the opening two days at the September sale have signalled that yearling prices at the marketplace have returned to the levels they had attained before the terrorist attacks of 2001.

In 2000, a son of Storm Cat later named Tasmanian Tiger had sold for $6.8 million to Coolmore.

Although knocked out of the top spot at the September sale last year by Gone West and Danzig, Storm Cat had the highest-priced yearlings in 2002. The overall leader was One Cool Cat for $3.1 million at the Keeneland July yearling sale, and the September sale-topper was The Mighty Tiger for $2.5 million.