07/18/2002 12:00AM

Storm Cat still top dog for buyers


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The top sales sire Storm Cat, combined with outstanding female families and aided by strong marketing, produced the highest-priced yearling at this week's Keeneland July select yearling sale, as well as the auction's top-priced filly.

Storm Cat merely reconfirmed his position as the most commercially acceptable stallion in the international market with his yearlings' performance in the Tuesday evening session at Keeneland July. A dark bay son of Storm Bird and the Secretariat mare Terlingua, Storm Cat has repeatedly sired the yearlings that have brought the most money at select sales for the past several years.

That level of commercial appeal has drawn Storm Cat the majority of the world's most select broodmares year after year. And from the foal crop of 2001, Storm Cat's dark brown son out of the Mr. Prospector mare Tacha brought $3.1 million, the highest yearling price of 2002. The final bid came from Demi O'Byrne, acting for Michael Tabor and John Magnier. Cataloged late in the sale, the Tacha colt was Hip No. 186 of 200 in the Keeneland catalog, and for most of the Tuesday session, the sale's leader was Hip No. 105, a handsome chestnut filly by Storm Cat out of the grand producer Amelia Bearhart.

A half-sister to three stakes winners, including champion Chief Bearhart, Hip No. 105 sold for $2.8 million in the first furlong of Tuesday's session. David and Ginger Mullins consigned the filly for breeder Richard Maynard, and she sold to Eugene Melnyk.

Both of these preeminent sales yearlings descend from outstanding families, which partly accounts for their appeal to buyers. If they succeed at the highest level, they are automatically premium breeding stock worth even larger sums.

Hip No. 105 is from the family of Mr. Prospector, who was the sale topper at Keeneland July in 1971. The filly's third dam is Gold Digger, who produced Mr. Prospector and two other stakes winners.

At least in terms of international racing performance, there is even greater distinction in the family of the sale-topping colt. He is out of a winning daughter of Mr. Prospector, and the second dam is the Northern Dancer mare Savannah Dancer, who won the Grade 2 Del Mar Oaks and ran second in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby against colts.

Allen Paulson had acquired Savannah Dancer for $2.5 million at the Keeneland July sale in 1983. She was a good-looking daughter of the best stallion in the world (Northern Dancer) and out of champion racemare Valoris, winner of the English Oaks and already the dam of a pair of group race winners. Paulson gambled on the daughter of an old broodmare, as Valoris was 19 when she produced Savannah Dancer, and the latter proved a highly talented racehorse for Paulson and a good producer.

Her best offspring is the high-class Sha Tha, a stakes-winning daughter of Mr. Prospector who showed her best form with a second in the French 1000 Guineas at 3 and a third in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac the previous year. In addition to Sha Tha, Savannah Dancer produced three more daughters by Mr. Prospector: Onaga, Oshima, and Tacha, the dam of the $3.1 million colt.

At the Keeneland January sale in 2000, Brookside Farm sold Tacha to Ken Troutt and Bill Casner for $2.2 million, and she produced the July sale topper for their WinStar Farm in 2001.

Mark Taylor, whose family's Taylor Made Sales consigned the high-priced colt, said that "he was one of those horses we knew had the potential to top the sale, even when he was a weanling. WinStar brought him along and delivered him to us 30 days before the sale. So a lot of credit goes to them for the horse he has become. Then the top buyers latched onto him, and the script played out the way we hoped it would when we first saw him."

A big, robust yearling, the Storm Cat colt has a very strong top but also has some length and quality in his makeup. Taylor noted that "he is a Storm Cat with a lot of scope, he didn't look like a sprinter, and he has a great mind." Those are the qualities that so greatly attract the buyers of premium yearlings.

Nor did it hurt that the colt has a head and expression quite like Storm Cat and had the body styling of some of his sire's best racers. Taylor said the colt reminded him "of Saudi Poetry, who topped the Saratoga sale for us a few years ago." That handsome chestnut filly brought $1.7 million in 1998 and sold to Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corp., which raced her to success in the Grade 2 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap. And The Thoroughbred Corp. had purchased Saudi Poetry because she looked so much like their top filly Sharp Cat, another big, strong Storm Cat with scope and quality.