For any breeder whose budget puts the top-tier stallions well out of reach, there’s an important question to answer. Would you prefer to use a highly accomplished racehorse with a less-than-fashionable pedigree, or a blue-blooded horse, which, for one reason or another, failed to become a graded winner?
Many breeders are happy with the latter approach, especially if the stallion in question is by the most sought-after sire of his generation. Arguably the best advocate for this approach was the late, great Northern Dancer, as several of his non-group/graded winners hit the Grade I target as stallions. Of course, the finest examples were Danzig, with around 200 stakes winners to his credit; Vice Regent, who numbered the champion sire Deputy Minister among his 105 stakes winners; Fairy King, who supplied winners of the Derby, Arc and Japan Cup; Night Shift, sire of a wide variety of Group 1 winners; and Sovereign Dancer, whose legacy included Louis Quatorze, Gate Dancer and Priolo. Mr Prospector has also lent some support to this type of strategy, with such sires as Allen’s Prospect, Crafty Prospector, Hussonet, Not For Love, Our Emblem, Silver Ghost and Two Punch all showing that a graded win isn’t essential to stallion success (Two Punch is the only member of this collection to have even won a stakes race).
Inevitably, breeders were also keen to give Storm Cat’s sons every chance at stud - even the ones which fell some way short of Grade I standard or failed to show the precocious talent for which Storm Cat’s name has become synonymous.
Storm Boot, a non-stakes winner who didn’t race at two, was among the first to reward breeders for their leap of faith, and he was soon followed by Forest Wildcat. Although Forest Wildcat did manage to win a pair of Grade III sprints, he didn’t do so until he was five and not before he had been sold for a modest $57,000 at the end of his third year on the track. He has justified his chance by siring four Grade I winners. Stormin Fever, another Grade I sire, also won nothing more important than a Grade III race.
It has been a similar story with Stormy Atlantic, whose early career was limited by injury to just one start each at two and three. Finally able to have a full campaign at four, he won a pair of sprint stakes, but was still without any black type at the graded level by the time he retired to stud in Florida. The fact that he is standing the current season at $45,000 in Kentucky tells its own story. A further example is Catienus, who finally became a stakes winner (not at graded level) as a five-year-old. As the sire of Precious Kitten, Dawn of War and Talent Search, he is steadily earning himself better and better opportunities. Devon Lane, yet another son of Storm Cat, earned only $6,317 in winning three very small races as a three-year-old, yet his daughter River’s Prayer sold for $1.5 million at the end of a 2007 campaign which saw her become a Grade I winner with earnings in excess of $900,000.
The latest name to be added to this collection is that of Tribal Rule, whose son Georgie Boy is on target for the Santa Anita Derby, following his all-weather victories in the GI Del Mar Futurity and GII San Felipe S. Tribal Rule clearly had his problems as a young horse, as he never made it to the track at the ages of two or three. Indeed, it wasn’t until the November of his four-year-old season that he finally made his debut, when second over six furlongs at Santa Anita. Even then it was another nine months before he was seen in action again, but he proved well worth the wait, as he achieved Beyer ratings of 109 and 106 in collecting a pair of sprints at Del Mar in August 2001.
The Blood-Horse recorded that: “Not since Kona Gold ripped up the seaside three years ago has an older sprinter caused a stir at Del Mar like Pam and Marty Wygod’s Tribal Rule. The five-yearold son of Storm Cat was at it again on Aug. 24. After steamrolling maidens three weeks ago, he dusted off initial-level allowance company just as easily, galloping six furlongs in 1:09.09. Tribal Rule has made just three starts, but the Wygods and trainer Julio Canani are thinking Breeders’ Cup Sprint.” Unfortunately, Tribal Rule’s troubles continued.
It was July 2002 before he managed to make his fourth start, when a narrow second in another fast time at Hollywood Park, and he came out of the race with a sesamoid injury. The Wygods quickly announced that the six-year-old would retire to their River Edge Farm in California, at a fee of $5,000 in 2003. He was no doubt made all the more welcome on account of his dam Sown being a half-sister to Pirate’s Bounty, who sired over 60 stakes winners during a successful career in California, at River Edge.
Although Tribal Rule obviously had soundness issues, plenty of California breeders were prepared to take the risk, no doubt keen to use a fast Storm Cat horse with the added attraction of being a half-brother to Key Phrase, a Grade I seven-furlong winner. Incidentally, Key Phrase had also produced a colt by Storm Cat and this colt - Yankee Gentleman - also developed into a smart sprinter at four in 2003, when he landed the Pirate’s Bounty H. In very fast time.
Tribal Rule has achieved an encouraging percentage of stakes winners with the runners from his first two crops, but he has only 39 named juveniles this year and a small yearling crop. However, his early stallion success brought him a book of 132 mares in 2007 and he will no doubt be very popular again this year. In other words, he should have the ammunition to take his career to another level from 2010 onwards.
Extract by Andrew Caulfield from Thoroughbred Daily News