There are foal papers to back up Ric Waldman's claims that the dark bay stallion pawing at the ground before him is indeed age 29. But on an overcast afternoon on the grounds of the farm he single-handedly elevated, Storm Cat seems hellbent on making a liar out of both the longtime bloodstock adviser and his own 1983 birthdate.
Aside from a slight sway in his back and a touch of stiffness in his knees, there is little to suggest the legendary sire would qualify for the equine AARP — including his still feisty demeanor.
"I had yearlings this summer I couldn't get to look as good as him," laughs Eduardo Terrazas, the former stallion manager at Overbrook Farm who now leases part of the property and looks after his old charge.
Storm Cat's physique is not the only thing that continues to hold up over time. Four seasons after he was pensioned from stud duty, the shadow of one of the sport's most influential sires still looms large over the industry he altered.
With the 2012 breeding season set to commence, a changing of the guard in the stallion ranks is under way. Since perennial leading sire A.P. Indy was pensioned by Lane's End last April and Storm Cat covered his last few mares in 2008, the wait is on to see which, if any, sire in the coming years has the game-changing impact of those two stalwarts.
For all the exciting young stallions such as Bernardini, Tapit and Street Cry currently holding court, the raw numbers put up by Storm Cat are unlikely to be duplicated.
The horse who was once largely ignored by breeders went on to stand for an American high of $500,000 for a six-year stretch, siring eight champions and 180 stakes winners with progeny earnings of more than $126 million.
Most impressive is the fact the son of Storm Bird achieved his success from relatively humble beginnings. Having started out at a fee of $30,000 in 1988, Storm Cat was able to produce runners early on from books of less-than-fashionable mares.
Not since the legendary Northern Dancer stood at Windfields Farm has one stallion been so responsible for a farm's success the way Storm Cat was with Overbrook — the operation founded by the late William T. Young. Overbrook dispersed its stock in 2009 but will house its foundation stallion until he takes his final breath.
"Storm Cat enabled so much for the farm through all the stud fees, through the successes his progeny had, and that really put Overbrook on the map long before we won the Kentucky Derby (with Grindstone in 1996)," said Waldman, who managed the majority of Storm Cat's career. "Mr. Young wore his success proudly. It furthered his belief that nobody really knows what's going to happen."
The volume of top runners Storm Cat produced is gaudy with such champions and classic victors as Giant's Causeway, Storm Flag Flying, Sweet Catomine and Tabasco Cat among his 110 graded stakes winners. With Giant's Causeway now one of the industry's leading stallions at Coolmore Stud, and other sons of Storm Cat pumping out stakes winners, his reputation as a sire of sires is on track to keep his influence going for decades.
"The bottom of the market coincided with Storm Cat's rise so they fed on each other," Waldman said. "And he stood alone holding that title as a must-breed-to stallion in the eyes of all breeders who were big thinkers."
What will solidify Storm Cat's legacy, however, is his impact on the commercial marketplace. Right when the auction arena started to rebound in the 1990s is when Storm Cat got hot and his stud fee began to rise from its low of $20,000.
Desire for Storm Cat blood shook up the sales pavilions as the number of seven-figure yearlings he sired is in the 90s, according to Waldman, nearly double that of Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer. In this current climate ripe with shrinking foal crops and a still shaky global economy, it will be even more challenging for a stallion to come close to that kind of domination.
"A lot of that has to do with the different economies but you can't overlook the magnitude of his numbers," Waldman said. "It will be more difficult for some of those numbers to be achieved unless the game expands, unless the foal crop expands.
"We would need more races and more horses to run in those races and right now that is not the trend."
One thing about Storm Cat that may be blown out of proportion is his supposed difficult temperament. Showcasing what years of respect and trust can achieve, Terrazas playfully grabs the stallion's muzzle and grapples with him the way one would a puppy.
"You only get a mint if I get a kiss," Terrazas informs the bright-eyed stud before giving in and handing over the treat.
Considering the impact Storm Cat continues to have on the industry, every reward he gets is one he long ago earned.