03/08/2004 1:00AM

Tabasco Cat, 13, dies in Japan


Tabasco Cat, winner of the 1994 Preakness and Belmont Stakes, has died at age 13 in Japan, where he was at stud, according to a published report.

The Thoroughbred Times reported that Tabasco Cat, a Storm Cat stallion, died of heart failure March 6 while covering a mare. The Japanese Bloodhorse Breeders' Association purchased Tabasco Cat in 2000 for $7 million and stood him at its Shizunai Stallion Station on Hokkaido.

Tabasco Cat, a son of the Sauce Boat mare Barbicue Sauce, earned $2,347,671 in two seasons at the racetrack. He was campaigned by his breeders, Overbrook Farm owner W. T. Young and David Reynolds, and built a career record of 18-8-3-2. D. Wayne Lukas trained the chestnut colt.

Tabasco Cat is best known in North America both for his classic successes and for his involvement in an accident that nearly took the life of Lukas's son and chief assistant, Jeff Lukas. In December 1993, the then-2-year-old got loose in the Lukas barn at Santa Anita. Jeff Lukas stepped out into the shed row to try to stop the colt, who ran over him. The younger Lukas was hospitalized for months with multiple skull fractures and only narrowly survived the accident.

Tabasco Cat went on to win five stakes the following year. In addition to the Preakness and Belmont, he captured the San Rafael Stakes, El Camino Real Derby, and Kentucky Cup Classic. He also finished second in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Santa Anita Derby, and Jim Dandy Stakes and was third in the Travers that season.

Retired initially to Overbrook, Tabasco Cat sired Grade 1 winners Snow Ridge and Habibti, and such other graded winners as Cat's at Home, Freefourinternet, Perfect Cat, and Raylene, among others. His worldwide progeny earnings stand at $17,389,731.

Tabasco Cat's first Japanese runners are 2-year-olds this year.