BluebloodsBluebloods - Feature ArticleThe rise of Storm Cat’s line via Scat Daddy

September 18, 2020Ken McLean
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THOROUGHBRED breeders in Australasia are spoiled. We are fortunate to have access to many of the world’s most potent sire lines, thanksto the shuttle system.

Significantly, we benefit from our highly successful homebred stallions as well. Currently heading the Australian Sires’ List by progeny earnings are I Am Invincible, Snitzel and Pierro, all foaled in Australia, The leading sire in New Zealand is Savabeel, a Cox Plate winner and son of Zabeel.

Concerning the need for bio-diversity in the international thoroughbred gene pool, it’s interesting how owners of leading stud farms rely on a mix of the soundest American dirt performers with European turf performers. For instance, leading Irish trainer Vincent O’Brien, who was passionate about a mix of blood lines, often discussed the merits of Graded dirt winners with American trainers and stud masters like “Bull” Hancock of Claiborne Farm fame.

Vincent O/Brien was amazed at the soundness of performers on testing dirt surfaces. “Bull” Hancock was an advocate of importing champions from Europe and South America. He formed a syndicate to buy Nasrullah also Argentina’s Horse of the Year, Forli, whose branch of the Hyperion male line lives on locally through Spirit of Boom, a horse whois inbred 4mx5f to Forli’s son Thatch. Another famous horseman was John Gaines who developed Gainesway Farm in Kentucky. He imported high-class stallions from Europe, namely Riverman, Lyphard and Blushing Groom, to match with American mares. These Kentucky pioneers had the foresight to enable dirt families to be upgraded within one generation.

The same principle is being applied today by leading stud farm owners. John Magnier has developed Coolmore Stud into the world’s most successful source of Group and Graded stakes winners. John Messara developed Arrowfield Stud, initially standing leading sire Danehill and then his champion son Redoute’s Choice and that horse’s champion sire son Snitzel.

Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation shuttles a variety of outstanding stallions to Australia. Darley shuttled Street Cry, the sire of champion Winx. In Japan, the Yoshida family imported Northern Taste, Sunday Silence (sire of Deep Impact, Heart’s Cry and Neo Universe) and King Kamehameha by French Champion Kingmambo. In North America, there are now many more Graded stakes races programmed for turf runners.

Trends in sire lines are ever changing. John Messara mentioned an extremely high percentage of broodmares in Australia possess at least one source of Danehill. Naturally there is an imminent need to breed many of these mares to stallions free of Danehill’s strain. John Magnier, the billionaire owner of the Coolmore operation in Ireland is described as a stallion-maker and ranks with our past great breed-shapers, “Bull” Hancock, John Gaines, Lord Derby, Marcel Boussac, Federico Tesio and the Aga Khan. These men believed in selecting and promoting exciting new stallion material for mare owners to patronise.

Magnier’s ability to predict tomorrow’s successful sires is based on research of individual high-class dirt and turf performers from sound, stakes winning female lines. Ashford Stud, the Kentucky satellite of the Coolmore conglomerate is the home base for two American Triple Crown winners, namely American Pharoah and Justify.

Recalling the early 1980s when bloodstock markets boomed until the market crashed midway through the decade, the trio of Vincent O’Brien, Robert Sangster and John Magnier decided to invest in sons of dirt performer Northern Dancer, victorious in the Kentucky Derby-Gr.1. At major yearling sales in Lexington, the O’Brien brigade bought future champions on turf. Nijinsky II was bought privately in Canada and this European champion was sent to retire at “Bull” Hancock’s Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. Vincent O’Brien visited this farm and chatted for many hours with Hancock about stallion syndication.

At age 15 years, John Magnier lost his father and was duty bound to manage the family’s farm at Fermoy, County Tipperary. The O’Brien and Magnier families have history together. When John married Vincent O’Brien’s daughter Susan, he gained valuable knowledge and advice from his father-in-law.

The young Magnier purchased Castle Hyde Stud comprising 80a (200 acres) and by 1975 stood 13 stallions at his two farms. Looking back, 1972 was a big year for Vincent O’Brien and Lester Piggot. They were enjoying amazing success for wealthy American clients. Vincent trained Roberto to win the English Derby for Darby Dan Farm. In 1973, the flamboyant Robert Sangster was introduced to Vincent O’Brien and 23 year-old John Magnier.

Robert Sangster became the most important client for the Ballydoyle stable. He invested a fortune in yearlings and racehorses (e.g. Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe-Gr.1 winner Alleged) and was leading owner in Britain and Ireland on eight occasions. Along Vincent’s enduring journey was his vision to establish and own a unique Irish stallion operation.

To achieve this goal, in 1975 he bought a two-thirds holding of a beautiful farm owned by Tim Vigors, now part of Coolmore’s 2832ha (7000 acre) property, and asked John to manage it. Vincent O’Brien, Robert Sangster and leading jockey Lester Piggot began to visualise future classic winners needed to retire to their Irish Stud farm. Roberto was to go back to Kentucky to stand at stud.

Magnier concluded the industry was handcuffed by the syndication of stallions, with contracts putting a ceiling on the number of mares a horse was permitted to cover. The young Irishman saw limited books as a restriction of trade. Thinking out of the box John Magnier, with his innovative mind, formed a strategy to lure wealthy partners willing to gamble on buying well-bred yearling colts to win important Group races in Britain, Ireland and France, colts who in future could make valuable income-producing stallions. To help finance his ideas, and convince investors, he explained the concept of standing non-syndicated stallions in both hemispheres. He also investigated tax havens offshore.

Magnier wanted to ensure total control of stallion service fees and the number of mares covered.

Of course this bucked the system. Traditionalists were quick to oppose any change, but in taking new ground, progress came with a vengeance. The Coolmore enterprise flourished and quickly rose to become the dominant force in the industry, worldwide.

Coolmore Australia and Ashford Stud in Kentucky were vital additions to fulfil the objectives. By accepting more than 100 mare bookings to their stallions in a given breeding season, and by shuttling stallions, Coolmore gained share of market and made huge profits. Magnier met all the important international players in the industry. His competitors admired his enthusiasm and he had a vibrant sales team. His unique ability to identify stallion material likely to prove popular with commercial breeders earned the Irishman an enviable reputation,Financial support came from risk takers Robert Sangster and Michael Tabor who enjoyed winning Gr.1 races, especially those at Royal Ascot. Coolmore, with professional staff, serviced clients at all levels. Watching with interest were most of the mega-rich operations including Sheikh Mohammed (Darley), Sheikh Hamdan (Shadwell), Will Farish (Lane’s End), Seth Hancock (Claiborne), Robert Clay (Three Chimneys) and Antony Beck (Gainesway). His Highness Karim Aga Khan, who essentially focused on aiming to win European classics, privately admitted Coolmore and the Maktoum family posed major threats to future achievements.

Everyone needed to lift their game. The team at Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farm recommended foal shares be proposed and contacted Coolmore’s management to arrange for some of their quality mares to be matched with Coomore’s best stallions. This policy was rewarded when Prince Khalid was lucky enough to gain from a foal share contract the handsome Galileo colt out of Kind, named Frankel.

Robert Sangster’s famous Northern Dancer horse Sadler’s Wells retired to Coolmore and became Europe’s most influential stallion, leading the sires’ List many times. His most famous son is unequivocally champion Galileo, whose strain has an affinity with the lines of Danzig and Danehill. There’s no doubt John Magnier has a brilliant mind. An art collector, he made a killing as a currency trader, dabbled in bonds and among other investments is part owner of the huge pub group named Mitchells & Butlers. John and Susan have four sons, Tom, John Paul, Michael Vincent and Sam and a daughter, Katie, the latter married to trainer David Watchman. Michael Vincent Magnier manages Coolmore in Ireland and his older brother Tom manages Coolmore Australia.

John Magnier proved he was able to consistently predict ideal stallion material and his friends say he has “the sharpest brain in the bloodstock business”. Vincent O’Brien trained Northern Dancer’s son Storm Bird, who was Champion Two Year-Old in England and Ireland. The athletic Storm Bird was retired to Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

Recently I became aware of Magnier’s desire to support the line of Storm Cat via Scat Daddy, rather than the line of Storm Cat’s champion son Giant’s Causeway. It makes sense for us to heed Magnier’s new strategy. Why? Well the facts are crystal clear, Coolmore and Ashford Studs stand all of Scat Daddy’s best performed sons, No Nay Never, Caravaggio, Sioux Nation, Mendelssohn and US Horse of the Year Justify.

No Nay Never, French Champion Two Year-Old, is a serious sire of stakes winners in Ireland and now commands a fee of €150,000 ($A243,000). He was
an immediate success with smart colts Ten Sovereigns and Land Force. No Nay Never is from a daughter of Elusive Quality and is line bred 5f,3fx4m to Mr. Prospector with duplication of Northern Dancer (5mx5m,4f) via sons Storm Bird and Hero’s Honor, as well as via daughter Six Months Long. The pedigree is saturated with descendants of champion Native Dancer via both sexes.

Scat Daddy belongs to Storm Cat’s branch via brilliant grandson Johannesburg. The progression of Storm Cat’s male line via Hennessy (Storm Cat-Island Kitty by Hawaii) was not expected. Scat Daddy (ex Love Style by Mr. Prospector) was sold as a yearling in 2005 to James Scatuorchio for $US250,000 and from nine starts the juvenile the colt won five times and earned $US1,334,300. He won the Sanford Stakes-Gr.2 and Champagne Stakes-Gr.1, was runner-up in the Hopeful Stakes-Gr.1 and finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes-Gr.1. Michael Tabor bought into the colt after the Sanford Stakes victory.

At three, Scat Daddy was placed in the Holy Bull Stakes-Gr.3 before winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes-Gr.2 and Florida Derby-Gr.1 at Gulfstream Park. Well supported for the Kentucky Derby-Gr.1, he was injured in a scuffle near the turn, which caused an injured tendon. Retired to Ashford Stud, Scat Daddy was well supported and also shuttled to Haras Paso Nevado in Chile for a period of four years. Scat Daddy died on December 14, 2015 when his Kentucky fee had escalated to $US100,000. It was a brutal blow for all who loved this stallion. Scat Daddy led the Sire’s List in Chile four times and sired dirt and turf stakes winners.

During the late 1980s when I worked at Overbrook Farm, one of my roles was to research and identify mares who might suit resident stallion Storm Cat.
I pencilled in stakes-placed winner Island Kitty, a mare bred by C.V. Whitney who had been acquired by Overbrook’s owner William T. Young. In 1986 Island Kitty produced a small colt named Shy Tom (by Blushing Groom) who won 10 times, earning $US812,426, including the Gulfstream Breeders’ Cup Handicap-Gr.3 and Salvatore Mile Handicap-Gr.3.

Shy Tom was exported to Argentina and became an influential sire. Island Kitty, dam of Hennessy, had minor soundness issues in her front ankles yet scored four times and was runner-up in the Adirondack Stakes-Gr.3, finished third in the Matron Stakes-Gr.1 and third in the Astarita Stakes-Gr.3. Her father Hawaii won 21 of his 28 starts and is a son of Tesio’s home bred Utrillo II (Toulouse Lautrec-Urbinella by Alycidon). William T. Young sold Hennessy as a yearling in 1994 to Bob and Beverly Lewis. After winning the Hopeful Stakes-Gr.1, Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes-Gr.2 and Sapling Stakes-Gr.2, Hennessy was sidelined by injury and sold to retire to Ashford Stud. He also shuttled to Haras La Mission in Argentina where he died of a heart attack in 2007.

Hawaii, the broodmare sire of Hennessy, was 1998 Horse of the Year in South Africa and in 1969 was voted Champion US Grass Horse. Raced by Mrs and Mrs Charles Englehard, for whom he won the United Nations Handicap and Man o’War Stakes in new track record time, Hawaii was purely a turf runner, yet he was retired to Claiborne Farm. He sired numerous stakes winners including English Derby-Gr.1 hero Henbit, smart stakes winner Island Charm and Gr.1 winners Hawaiian Sound and Qualique.

Hennessy sired US and European Champion Two Year-Old Johannesburg, raced by Michael Tabor and John Magnier who purchased him for $200,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Johannesburg went undefeated at two, earning $US1,014 584 from seven victories including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes-Gr.1, Prix Morny-Gr.1, Phoenix Stakes-Gr.1 and Middle Park Stakes-Gr.1. His dam Myth is by the sprinter Ogygian (a son of Damascus), from Yarn
by Mr. Prospector.

Although Johannesburg sired more than 50 stakes winners in his stud career he was never really popular after his first two crops proved disappointing on the racetrack. He ended his career at the JBBA Shizunai Stallion Station in Japan. His female line is strong and traces to Monarchy (Princequillo-Knight’s Daughter
by Sir Cosmo), the sister to champion Round Table.

In the pedigree of Johannesburg it is worth noting a genetic connection between Secretariat and Gonfalon, dam of Ogygian.

Secretariat is by Bold Ruler (son of Nasrullah) from Somethingroyal by Princequillo whose make-up is very similar to Ogygian’s dam Gonfalon, who is by Francis S. (by Nasrullah’s three-quarter brother Royal Charger) from Grand Splendor whose dam is by Princequillo. Yet another source of Princequillo comes via Monarchy. Scat Daddy is another high-class performer who is the product of Storm Bird’s affinity with close relative Nijinsky II. Both are sons of Northern Dancer from mares possessing a mix of Bull Lea with one of the full brothers Flares and Omaha. Scat Daddy sired 115 stakes winners in his short stud career.

After Vincent O’Brien retired from training, a young Aidan O’Brien was appointed trainer of all horses stabled at Ballydoyle and what a remarkable record this Irishman (not related to Vincent) has achieved.

By 1994 John Magnier acquired all of Coolmore Stud and Ballydoyle. Michael Tabor arrived on the scene as a major racing partner and invested in expensive yearlings at major sales with the Magnier family. Colts by Scat Daddy in Kentucky were targeted and a steel grey colt to be named Caravaggio was purchased. This colt was considered to be one of the fastest sprinters Aidan O’Brien has ever put a saddle on. Storm Cat’s brilliance and muscle definition can be successfully transmitted down the male line, Caravaggio being a splendid example.

Caravaggio is not quite 16 hands high and a ball of muscle and shuttles from Coolmore. He was joint champion sprinter in Ireland, won seven of 10 starts including a hotly contested Commonwealth Cup-Gr.1 at Royal Ascot, defeating two high-class sprinters Harry Angel and Blue Point. At two years his wins included The Curragh’s Phoenix Stakes-Gr.1 and Royal Ascot’s Coventry Stakes-Gr.2. He is now a striking and handsome grey stallion.

Caravaggio inherits his coat colour from broodmare sire Holy Bull, a champion at three and US Horse of the Year. Holy Bull was an impressive front-runner who won the Futurity Stakes-Gr.1 at two. At three he progressed to win the Travers Stakes-Gr.1, Haskell Invitational Handicap-Gr.1, Woodward Stakes-Gr.1 and Florida Derby-Gr.1. He sired US Champion Two Year-Old Macho Uno. Holy Bull’s dam has the grey English Derby winner Mahmoud 3mx4f.

With confidence I predict Caravaggio will make a very influential stallion here and in the northern hemisphere because he has the right pedigree pattern to suit many popular commercial strains including mares with Danzig and Danehill. Caravaggio’s dam is line bred (4mx4f) to the tough grey stallion The Axe II, by Mahmoud from Blackball, granddaughter of La Troienne. Caravaggio’s dam Mikko Hokte is line bred to the fast American miler Intentionally and the third dam Silver in Flight carries a double of Princequillo. The Axe II won stakes at two and three in England before being shipped to North America where his 12 wins included the Knickerbocker Handicap, setting a new American record, the Man o’War Stakes, Long Island Handicap and Canadian Championship Stakes. He inherited stamina.

Among the main features of Scat Daddy’s best sons we notice that Scat Daddy is inbred to champion Mr. Prospector 4fx2f via daughters Yarn and Love Style. Perhaps this might explain why Scat Daddy became a dominant sire of stakes winners. He inherits vital speed genes from Mr. Prospector (by champion Raise a Native, son of champion Native Dancer) via two daughters, and it indicates his strain will be effective with mares possessing a son of Mr. Prospector and succeed with more input from Northern Dancer’s strain.

In addition, Scat Daddy would inherit superior genes from many sources of champion Teddy, via sons Bull Dog, Sir Gallahad III and Case Ace. Thus, when his genotype links up with Teddy’s famous daughter La Troienne, examples being Caravaggio and No Nay Never, it is not surprising why this mix should
be explosive for speed.

Mendelssohn is another young son of Scat Daddy who I predict will make a very influential sire of stakes winners. Be warned; do not underestimate this young stallion’s potential. He is a son of North America’s Broodmare of the Year, the wonderful mare Leslie’s Lady, dam of champion Beholder and of Storm Cat line stallion Into Mischief, who was Leading Sire in North America in 2019. Mendelssohn is line bred 4fx5f to classic winner Nijinsky II and gets stamina via His Majesty (Ribot-Flower Bowl by Alibhai), broodmare sire of Tricky Creek, see pedigree. His Majesty is of course the broodmare sire of Danehill.

Mendelssohn was a very expensive yearling who won four times on turf and dirt for earnings of more than $1.4m. At two years he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf-Gr.1 and was second in the Dewhurst Stakes-Gr.1 to US Navy Flag. Mendelssohn easily won the Gr.2 UAE Derby but afterwards the three year old never really reached his potential, although he was gallant in defeat when runner-up to Catholic Boy in the Travers Stakes-Gr.1 at Saratoga. I believe this young stallion possesses a pedigree pattern that rates highly and I expect his progeny will inherit more stamina than progeny of Caravaggio.

Sioux Nation (Scat Daddy-Dream The Blues by Oasis Dream) who shuttles from Coolmore Ireland to Adam Sangster’s Swettenham Stud, Victoria, is line bred 5mx4m to champion Storm Bird and has that ancestor’s close relative Nijinsky II to add classic speed. The dam of Sioux Nation is interesting because she has two grandparents bred on the Northern Dancer nick with Sir Ivor. At two years, Sioux Nation won the Phoenix Stakes-Gr.1 at the Curragh, Norfolk Stakes-Gr.2 at Royal Ascot, Lacken Stakes-Gr.3 at Naas and a Maiden Handicap at Cork. At three years he was placed in the Flying Five Stakes-Gr.1. He stood last year at $17,600.

The US Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy-Stage Magic by Ghostzapper) has a triple cross of Mr. Prospector and a double of Nijinsky II. Built like a tank, this very big chestnut colt won all of six starts before he was forced into retirement. He never made it to the Breeder’s Cup. Trained by Bob Baffert who also trained American Pharoah, Justify won the Kentucky Derby-Gr.1, Preakness Stakes-Gr.1, Belmont Stakes-Gr.1 and Santa Anita Derby-Gr.1 and his dam is a stakes-placed winner who belongs to the family of Voodoo Lily and Spellbound. Unlike the other sons of Scat Daddy he is a horse standing almost 17 hands high. The team at Coolmore have gone out of their way to purchase expensive mares especially to suit this stallion.

Mendelssohn’s dam Leslie’s Lady transmits lots of nervous energy to her foals. Her daughter Beholder (by Henny Hughes) was World Champion Three Year-Old Filly and equal World Leading Older Mare. She won 18 races and earned, more than $US6.1m. Her wins include the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies-Gr.1, Breeders’ Cup Distaff-Gr.1 twice, Zenyatta Stakes-Gr.1 twice, Pacific Classic-Gr.1 and Santa Anita Oaks-Gr.1.

In 1988 Arthur Hancock, who owns Stone Farm, came to inspect Storm Cat at Overbrook Farm. Arthur is the quintessential horseman, eldest son of “Bull” Hancock“ and brother to Seth who runs Claiborne Farm. Arthur has bred four Kentucky Derby-Gr.1 winners and is a talented poet and guitarist. He was a close friend of my boss William T. Young and decided he wanted to foal share one of his mares with Storm Cat. He showed me his short list of mares for consideration and was a bit surprised when I selected Country Romance, a mare by Halo. The result of this mating was Harlan, a colt who took equal characteristics in physique from grandparents Storm Bird and Halo. I saw an opportunity to duplicate the high-class chestnut mare Almahmoud (by Mahmoud) via half-sisters Natalma and Cosmah, and Arthur agreed. Rather than sell the colt, he raced him with W.T. Young.

Harlan won eight races including the Vosburgh Stakes-Gr.1 at Belmont Park, was runner-up in the Forego Handicap-Gr.1, finished third in the Firecracker Handicap-Gr.2 and ran fourth in the valuable Breeders’ Cup Sprint-Gr.1. He retired to Stone Farm but died prematurely in 1999. His male line continued via his son Harlan’s Holiday, sire of Into Mischief.

Bred by Double D Farm, Harlan’s Holiday was raced by Starlight Stable and won nine of 22 starts for $US3,632.664 and in 2004 retired to Brereton Jones’s Airdrie Stud in Midway, Kentucky. The stallion also shuttled to Haras La Mission in Argentina where he proved a success. Harlan’s Holiday’s major victories came in the Donn Handicap-Gr.1, Florida Derby-Gr.1, Pennsylvania Derby-Gr.3 and Blue Grass Stakes-Gr.1. He was runner-up in the Dubai World Cup-Gr.1 and Hollywood Gold Cup-Gr.1. His dam, Christmas in Aitken, is by Triple Crown champion Affirmed. The female line of Harlan’s Holiday traces to elite mare Alanesian by US Champion Sprinter Polynesian (father of champion Native Dancer).

Scat Daddy’s sons Caravaggio and Mendelssohn very much appeal as likely to become influential sires of stakes winners. I believe they can upgrade the progeny of Australasian broodmares and currently stand at affordable fees.

Value fee sires

LAST but not least, who are some of our young stallions I especially like standing for less than
a $30,000 service fee? Well, consider this short list shown in alphabetical order and with last year’s advertised service fee:

Adelaide (Coolmore) $8800
Alpine Eagle (Armidale Stud) $6050
Headwater (Vinery) $13750
Puissance de Lune (Swettenham Stud) $19800
Supido (Widden) $8800
Toronado (Swettenham Stud) $27,500

I like Territories (Invincible Spirit), who has some well-bred babies about to start in Britain. I’m also a big fan of the brilliant Supido, son of Sebring, and of Adam Sangster’s young grey stallion Puissance de Lune, a son of Shamardal. In Tasmania breeders should look towards Alpine Eagle. He stands at a bargain basement fee and is bred on similar lines to Dundeel. For those of you with big budgets, always consider proven sires like Snitzel, I Am Invincible, Pierro, American Pharoah, No Nay Never and Savabeel, who have the ability to upgrade racing class. n

Ken McLean

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