The most popular male line in North American Thoroughbred pedigrees today is that of Storm Cat. And it has been the most popular male line for about a dozen years or so. Yet for all of its successes, the Storm Cat male line has one noticeable chink in its armor: its lack of success in the Kentucky Derby, America’s greatest race.
I decided to document the Storm Cat male line in the Kentucky Derby (see chart below). It lists the year of the Derby in question, the starter in that race, the finish position of that starter, and the sire of that starter.
Year Starter Finish Sire
1994 Tabasco Cat 6th Storm Cat
1999 Menifee 2nd Harlan
1999 Cat Thief 3rd Storm Cat
2000 High Yield 15th Storm Cat
2001 Keats 16th Hennessy
2002 Harlan’s Holiday 7th Harlan
2002 Johannesburg 8th Hennessy
2004 Lion Heart 2nd Tale of the Cat
2005 Noble Causeway 14th Giant’s Causeway
2006 Bluegrass Cat 2nd Storm Cat
2006 Storm Treasure 11th Storm Boot
2007 Sam P. 9th Cat Thief
2007 Storm in May 16th Tiger Ridge
2007 Teuflesberg 17th Johannesburg
2007 Scat Daddy 18th Joahnnesburg
2007 Stormello 19th Stormy Atlantic
2008 Denis of Cork 3rd Harlan’s Holiday
2008 Tale of Ekati 4th Tale of the Cat
2008 Cowboy Cal 9th Giant’s Causeway
2008 Smooth Air 11th Smooth Jazz
2009 West Side Bernie 9th Bernstein
2009 Hold Me Back 12th Giant’s Causeway
2010 Make Music for Me 4th Bernstein
2010 Line of David 18th Lion Heart
As you can see, Storm Cat himself sired four Derby starters. Tabasco Cat finished sixth in 1994, Cat Thief third in 1999, High Yield 15th in 2000, and Bluegrass Cat second in 2006. A second and a third from four starters is actually a pretty good record, especially since Tabasco Cat went on to win the Preakness and Belmont and Cat Thief the BC Classic (although neither was champion three-year-old; Tabasco Cat lost out to Holy Bull and Cat Thief to Charismatic; both Holy Bull and Charismatic were Horses of the Year).
The other 20 starters listed were all second or third generation in the male line (mainly the former). Those 20 starters yielded two seconds (Menifee in 1999 and Lion Heart in 2004) and one third (Denis of Cork in 2008). That is not quite as good a record. So overall the Storm Cat male line has accounted for 24 starters since its first appearance in the Derby in 1994, three seconds, and two thirds.
That record is comparable to Todd Pletcher’s Derby record as a trainer (before last year). Through 2009 Pletcher had sent out 27 Derby starters without a single winner, although he did collect seconds in 2001 with Invisible Ink and in 2006 with the aforementioned Bluegrass Cat and a third with Impeachment in 2000. Pletcher finally won his first Derby last year with Super Saver. The Storm Cat male line will probably break through and win a Derby eventually as well, but it probably will not be this year.
After Tabasco Cat in 1994, the next Derby starter from the Storm Cat male line did not appear until 1999. The Storm Cat male line has had at least one starter in every Derby since 1999 except for 2003. Indeed, it had five starters in 2007 (finishing ninth through 19th) and four starters in 2008 (finishing third through 11th).
As previously mentioned, the Storm Cat male line filled out the trifecta in 1999, with Menifee finishing second and Cat Thief third behind winner Charismatic. Cat Thief was by Storm Cat himself and sired Derby starter Sam P. (ninth in 2007). Menifee was by Storm Cat’s son Harlan. Harlan also sired Harlan’s Holiday, who finished seventh in 2002. Harlan’s Holiday in turn sired Denis of Cork, who finished third in 2008.
Storm Cat’s son Hennessy sired Derby starters Keats (16th in 2001) and Johannesburg (eighth in 2002). Johannesburg in turn sired two Derby starters, both in 2007, Teuflesberg (17th) and Scat Daddy (18th).
Storm Cat’s son Tale of the Cat sired Derby starters Lion Heart (second in 2004) and Tale of Ekati (fourth in 2008). Lion Heart in turn sired Derby starter Line of David (18th in 2010).
Storm Cat’s son Giant’s Causeway has sired Derby starters Noble Causeway (14th in 2005), Cowboy Cal (ninth in 2008), and Hold Me Back (12th in 2009).
Storm Cat’s son Bernstein has sired Derby starters West Side Bernie (ninth in 2009) and Make Music for Me (fourth in 2010).
The remaining four Derby starters were more miscellaneous. Storm Treasure (11th in 2006) was by Storm Boot, by Storm Cat. Smooth Air (11th in 2008) was by Smooth Jazz, by Storm Boot. Storm in May (16th in 2007) was by Tiger Ridge, by Storm Cat. Stormello (19th in 2007) was by Stormy Atlantic, by Storm Cat.
I originally intended to do this post last year but was discouraged from doing so because Eskendereya (by Giant’s Causeway) was such a hot favorite for the Derby. I thought the drought was going to end last year. By the time Eskendereya got injured and was shuffled off to stud, it was basically too late to do the research and scribble it up. I think I was busy on another project or two as well.
The main hope for the Storm Cat male line in this year’s Derby is Florida Derby runner-up Shackleford (by Forestry, by Storm Cat). Another possibility is Decisive Moment (by With Distinction, by Storm Cat), currently 15th on the graded earnings list. Other possibilities are all coming out of the Blue Grass. Twinspired (by Harlan’s Holiday) finished second in that race, Willcox Inn (also by Harlan’s Holiday) finished eighth, favored Santiva (by Giant’s Causeway) finished ninth, and Crimson China (also by Giant’s Causeway) finished fifth. It is possible that 2011 will be the first year since 2003 without a starter in the Derby from the Storm Cat male line. And it also possible that a starter from this male line will emerge and win the race.
Everyone seems to agree that this is one of the most wide open (to put it charitably; “muddled” might be the better word) Derbys ever seen. I do not profess to be a handicapper, but I do know a nice pedigree when I see one, and I really like the pedigree of Blue Grass winner Brilliant Speed (whose name appears to derive from his dam, Speed Succeeds, because his sire Dynaformer is certainly NOT renowned for imparting brilliant speed; rather the opposite, for stamina). The main reason I like this pedigree so much is down in its female line.
I know that the Blue Grass has not been the most reliable Kentucky Derby prep race in recent years (especially since Keeneland switched to Polytrack), but in a Derby as wide open (OK, muddled) as this one, I will be rooting for Brilliant Speed simply on the strength of his pedigree. If he runs anywhere as well at Churchill as he did at Keeneland, he has a shot. Stranger things have happened in the Kentucky Derby. That is precisely why we all love it.