05/15/2008 11:00PM

Storm Cat's sons to continue legacy

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Storm Cat's departure from the breeding shed at age 25 also marks the end of his extraordinary dominance of the auction ring.

By the time he retired last week at Overbrook Farm in Lexington, Storm Cat's auction summary showed that 413 of his yearlings had brought an average price of $702,378. The average price for one of his yearling colts was even better at $856,218, easily outpacing his average yearling filly price of $528,712.

"I think it's safe to say he picked up the mantle of his grandfather Northern Dancer," said Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell. "Storm Cat has had a huge influence both on North American racing and the sales business, and it will continue on. He's got plenty of sons to stand and plenty of daughters in the breeding shed, so it doesn't end with his retirement."

Buyers' confidence in Storm Cat's yearling sons seems well-founded. As of May 16, Storm Cat sons filled three of the top 10 spots on the North American general sire list: Giant's Causeway was second, followed by Tale of the Cat in sixth and Stormy Atlantic in seventh.

Giant's Causeway and Tale of the Cat stand at Ashford Stud, whose owner, Coolmore Stud, privately bought an undisclosed number of lifetime breeding rights to Storm Cat in 1999 - a supreme vote of confidence in the stallion's ability to get sons who would also turn into profitable sires.

Storm Cat certainly was bred for success, as a grandson of the great Northern Dancer and a son of the Secretariat mare Terlingua, an outstanding racemare. But Storm Cat was not, on the face of it, built to be a fashionable stallion in the commercial breeding center of Lexington, where a horse's conformation counts for a lot in the auction ring.

The Storm Bird colt retired after just eight starts. He had four wins, including a Grade 1 victory at 2 in the Young America Stakes, and he also had finished a close second in the 1985 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. But his knees were crooked, and that, combined with his relatively brief career, gave breeders pause. Many were breeding primarily for the sale ring, where crooked legs were penalized, and they weren't sure Storm Cat was worth the risk. He started his stud career with a $30,000 fee, which then dropped to $20,000. Overbrook's owner, W.T. Young, famously offered free seasons to breeders with mares he thought would match Storm Cat.

"We did everything short of begging," Overbrook advisor Ric Waldman once recalled.

But Storm Cat went on to sire eight champions, and his yearlings became the hottest fashion the sale ring had seen since Northern Dancer sparked the sale-ring boom of the 1980s. In both cases, bidding wars between Coolmore and Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum pushed the yearling values up to stratospheric levels.

"His first couple of crops, I think people were apprehensive about some of the conformational faults, but they proved afterwards that they were sound and able to run," Russell said. "In the later part of the 90s and the early part of this century, there's no doubt that he was the Cat daddy."

In 2006, 22 Storm Cat yearlings averaged $2,028,409 at the Keeneland September select sessions, perhaps the best performance by a sire at an American select yearling sale. (Northern Dancer and his son Nijinsky II had each had higher averages but for smaller groups of yearlings, between nine and 12, in the 1980s. And Storm Cat's best select-yearling average, $2,096,667, had come on the sale of just three yearlings in 2002.)

Will we see Storm Cat's like again? Russell thinks so.

"When Northern Dancer retired, we all thought we might never see one again like him, and up popped Storm Cat," he said. "The fads and fashions and tastes change as life goes on, so, yes, the next Storm Cat will appear on the horizon, we hope, very shortly."

Big Brown's breeding deal collapses

A multimillion-dollar deal for Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown's breeding rights that was expected to be announced before the Preakness has fallen through, according to the colt's majority owner.

"Unfortunately, we couldn't come to terms on a stud deal for Big Brown prior to the Preakness as we had hoped," said Michael Iavarone, co-president of IEAH Stables. "Legal issues and time constraints proved too much to overcome, and we will revisit all options following the Preakness. Big Brown is training as well as ever, we expect a big effort on Saturday, and are very anxious for the race. We appreciate the great interest shown in our colt."

IEAH declined to identify the colt's leading suitor, but the negotiating partner was believed to be a major American-owned stud farm in central Kentucky. A report published Thursday by The Associated Press quoted Iavarone as saying the breeding rights deal was worth "several tens of millions," and bloodstock insiders have placed Big Brown's value on the market as high as $50 million, meaning the Boundary colt would likely begin his stud career for a fee of at least $100,000.

Iavarone has said Big Brown will not campaign as a 4-year old.

IEAH, which stands for International Equine Acquisitions Holdings, purchased a 75 percent interest in Big Brown from Paul Pompa Jr. for about $2.25 million after the colt's first race last September.

Bred by Gary Knapp's Monticule Farm in Kentucky, Big Brown is undefeated in four starts. He is a son of the Nureyev mare Mien.