Storm Cat Male Line, Kentucky Derby

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.

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14 Responses to Storm Cat Male Line, Kentucky Derby

  1. bpressey says:

    Very interesting research, thank you. I was always curious as to how many Derby winners it was said of beforehand lacked the pedigree to get the distance?

    Brilliant Speed has 2 career starts on dirt and lost by a combined 40+ lengths. Even his trainer admitted he is afraid of the surface at CD for this one. Polytrack has thrown a monkey wrench into the works for any horse getting into the Derby based off of earnings solely from the Blue Grass.

    Pedigree or not, this one has already been proven to hate the dirt and will likely be a disaster in Louisville along the lines of Monba, Stately Victor, etc.

    • ddink55 says:

      Welcome. You are almost certainly right about Brilliant Speed hating dirt. But this is not about logic (handicapping or wagering); it is about emotion (rooting).

    • Double Jay says:

      What about Dialed In? or isn’t he going to the Derby now? it’s getting almost hard to keep up. Dialed In’s dam is Miss Doolittle, daughter of Storm Cat. Or are you just looking at the sire line? As I re-read I guess you are. What about him anyway?

      Also why so close to the vest on why you like the dam line of Brilliant Speed?
      Saving the dam lines for another post????

      • ddink55 says:

        Dialed In is still going to the Derby (as far as anyone knows) and is probably the favorite at this point. The only knock against Dialed In is that he is a bit of a plodder. Is he really FAST enough???? But considering the competition, I do not really agree with this criticism except in the sense that closers such as Dialed In do not always get the best trips. You answered your own question about male lines and why Dialed In is NOT part of the Storm Cat tribe in that regard. Two reasons why I played it close to the vest. I want people to look up the pedigree for themselves. I do not want to bore people with my own pedigree obsessions.

  2. SLL says:

    You forgot to mention Shackleford (by Forestry) as a possible KY Derby entrant.
    He posted a gutsy 2nd in the Florida Derby, and his dam I believe has already produced
    2 Graded winners.

  3. Calvin L. Carter says:


    Decisive Moment with $301,000 in graded stakes earnings and ranked 15th in Sunday’s edition of The Courier-Journal is currently the only Storm Cat sire line horse with enough earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

    Brilliant Speed was my pick in the Bluegrass Stakes and I’ll be rooting for him in the Derby too. Dynaformer, the sire of Brilliant Speed, has only sent three runners to the Kentucky and all of them finished in the money.

    2006 – Barbaro: 1st
    2002 – Perfect Drift: 3rd
    1994 – Blumin Affair: 3rd

    My favorite of all the potential Derby starters is Animal Kingdom.

  4. Double Jay says:

    Thanks for the info on Dialed In. When I watched the FL Derby there was a frontal view of the home stretch and his stride just looked so smooth and effortless compared to Shackleford, who was making a valiant effort. You could not see this on the video re-play I watched on line.

    I read last night that Comma At The Top & Midnight Interlude have returned to CA to train for the Derby. I have no favorite now, just like last year. It will be interesting to see if there are any more big changes before race day. I will probably go back and forth on my pick weekly and then resort to pulling a name out of a hat. That is basically what I did last year: Pletcher is due, Calvin is riding and I thought Super Saver’s pedigree showed he could handle rain, in case it did. I’d hate to mess up my hot streak of one, besides none of the “experts” I listened to could agree on anything. I love all the squabbling over the Derby picks when any individual’s opinion counts just as much as anybody else’s.

    BTW your vagueness on Brilliant Speed did cause me to look up his dam line; 3rd dam : Passing Mood by Buckpasser was an awfully good dam and a winner on the track herself. She produced Touch Gold who won the Belmont & With Approval who was 1989 Canadian HOY & Champion 3 yr Old & Canadian Hall of Fame. That is for the folks who didn’t have time to look it up. I am inspired to look up more dam lines.

  5. Pingback: Update to Storm Cat Male Line, Kentucky Derby | Boojum's Bonanza

    Mr. Prospector and Storm Cat bloodlines are my favorite whenever I’m doing my pedigree analysis. We will surely missed Storm Cat. May he rest in peace.

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