04/07/2008 11:00PM

Storm Cat slowing down at age 25


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Storm Cat, who followed Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector as the most fashionable stallion of his era, is now showing signs of declining fertility at age 25.

Ric Waldman, who manages the sire for Overbrook Farm in Lexington, confirmed Tuesday that Storm Cat's fertility this season has been "significantly lower" than last year, when 70 percent of the mares he covered got in foal. Waldman said the fertility problem appears to be age-related and that Storm Cat is in good health.

"We've been testing his semen all along, and we'll reveal a rate at the end of the season," Waldman said.

Storm Cat had bred 31 mares so far this year, Waldman said, adding that the Storm Bird horse's full book size for 2008 would be known at the end of the breeding season.

Asked whether this signals imminent pensioning for one of the world's most successful and influential sires, Waldman said: "We've not even discussed that, not even privately."

"He has been a special stallion to all involved with him, Overbrook and everyone who has bred to him and bought progeny by him and, most importantly, the impact he's had on the breed in general," Waldman said.

According to statistics from the Jockey Club, Storm Cat has sired 96 graded stakes winners and more than 150 stakes winners from 18 crops to race. He was leading sire in 1999 and 2000 and leading juvenile sire in 1992, 1993, 1998, 1999, and 2002. He's the sire of 2002 champion juvenile filly Storm Flag Flying, 2004 champion juvenile filly Sweet Catomine, European Horse of the Year Giant's Causeway, Canadian champions Ambitious Cat and Silken Cat, and European champion juveniles Hold That Tiger, Aljabr, and One Cool Cat.

Storm Cat's progeny understandably have commanded huge prices in the auction ring, especially at yearling sales, where his top sellers in recent years brought multimillion-dollar prices. Among them were $9.7 million Jalil in 2005, $8 million Mr. Sekiguchi in 2004, $6.8 million Tasmanian Tiger in 2000, $6.4 million Van Nistelrooy in 2001, and $6.3 million Objectivity. In 2000, his daughter Moon's Whisper set a world record for a yearling filly when she sold for $4.4 million at the Keeneland September yearling sale.

At the 2005 September sale's two select sessions, in the midst of a boom for Storm Cat yearlings driven by competition between Coolmore Stud and Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, 22 Storm Cat horses brought a collective $44,625,000 for an average price of more than $2 million.

"He was fortunate enough to ascend during the regrowth of the marketplace starting in the early '90s," Waldman said.

Storm Cat, whose fee dropped from $500,000 to $300,000 for this year, ranks 26th on the general sire list. His mark on the breed shows up above him on the same list, where as of April 8 four of the top 20 stallions were his sons: Giant's Causeway at No. 3, Stormy Atlantic (6), Tale of the Cat (8), and Forest Wildcat (20).