Throughout his four decades in the industry, bloodstock adviser Ric Waldman has been associated with some of the most influential stallions and operations in Thoroughbred racing.
By Wednesday morning, the time had come for Waldman to let go of the horse that not only defined his career, but put an indelible stamp on an era of commercial breeding.
The Thoroughbred world lost one of its great breed-shaping stallions Wednesday when Overbrook Farm's retired sire Storm Cat was euthanized at age 30 because of complications from infirmities of old age. He was buried on the farm.
Waldman, who managed Storm Cat's stud career for the late Overbrook founder William T. Young, said Storm Cat began noticeably declining over the past three weeks with tests indicating the presence of cancer.
For the horse who put Overbrook Farm on the map and whose offspring continue to resonate around the world, preserving his comfort and dignity at the end seemed to be the only way to go.
"We just thought it was the best thing to do, the humane thing to do," Waldman said. "You have to trust your eye and vet advice and ... have respect for the dignity in which he lived his life."
Foaled in Pennsylvania on Feb. 27, 1983, out of the Secretariat mare Terlingua, Storm Cat went from being dismissed by breeders, in part because of his off-set knees, to setting a standard that ranks with the likes of his grandsire Northern Dancer.
After standing for $30,000 his first season at stud in 1988, Storm Cat went on to command a high of $500,000 at his peak as his precocious progeny lit up every facet of the game.
A Grade I winner himself, having captured the 1985 Young America Stakes and run second in that year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Storm Cat sired eight champions, 110 graded stakes winners and 180 stakes winners from 21 crops he produced before being retired from stud duty in 2008.
Despite the initial coolness from breeders, Storm Cat became the ultimate self-made sire.
"This horse had that, the will to win and the competitiveness, and that is what he passed on," Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who conditioned Storm Cat, said during a visit with his old charge in February. "To be associated with a horse who became a legend in the breeding ranks is pretty neat."
Storm Cat sired such top domestic runners as champion Storm Flag Flying, dual classic winner Tabasco Cat and 1999 Breeders' Cup Classic hero Cat Thief,
The intangibles he passed on translated just as powerfully overseas.
His all-time leading earner, multiple Group I winner and European champion Giant's Causeway, has developed into his leading son at stud as he heads up the elite roster at Coolmore's American-based operation, Ashford Stud.
"The bottom line is there is not a person in the world who played the game at the top that didn't want to do it with his blood," said Walt Robertson, former chairman of Fasig-Tipton and current vice president of sales for Keeneland. "And most of the people who invested in him were rewarded."
Storm Cat's ascension to the top of the breeding shed hierarchy was borderline fantasy.
Originally entered to sell in the 1984 Keeneland July Yearling Sale, Storm Cat had to be withdrawn after he tested positive for equine viral arteritis — prompting Young to race the colt himself.
It is ironic that Storm Cat faced rejection in his first venture into the auction arena because that is the area he has most influenced.
His rise in the breeding shed coincided with a boom in the commercial marketplace. As a result, he established numbers that will probably stand for decades.
A total of 462 of his yearlings sold at auction for more than $319 million, including 91 yearlings that brought $1 million or more. By comparison, his grandsire Northern Dancer ranked second with 52 yearlings that brought $1 million or more.
Six times Storm Cat progeny topped the prestigious Keeneland September Yearling Sale, and he was the leading sire there by average eight times. Of the 10 highest-priced colts ever to sell at Keeneland in September, seven were sired by Storm Cat.
"There is no mistake he was the most commercial stallion of his generation," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "It was a tremendous success story. His footprints are on every part of the modern era."
Though Storm Cat's spirited temper was the source of many a tale from those on the receiving end of it, Waldman and former Overbrook stallion manager Eduardo Terrazas characterized the stallion as a loyal friend who had great awareness of his importance.
"He was the main identity for the farm and to a great extent, he was the identity for me as well," Waldman said. "At different stages of my life I might have had different identifications, but when you look back on my 40 years in the industry people say, 'Isn't he the guy who managed Storm Cat?'
"I'm proud to ride my fame behind the coattails of Storm Cat. I think the Young family and the farm are grateful to do the same."
STORM CAT BY THE NUMBERS
8: Champions sired
110: Graded stakes winners
180: Stakes winners
5: Breeders' Cup winners
91: Yearlings that sold for $1 million or more
8: Times he was leading sire by average at Keeneland September Yearling Sale (2009, 2008, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1998)
4: Times he was leading sire by average at Keeneland July Yearling Sale (2002, 2001, 1999, 1997)
STORM CAT SALE TOPPERS
Keeneland September Yearling Sale
2009 Storm 'N Indian $2.05M
2005 Jalil $9.7M
2004 Mr. Sekiguchi $8M
2002 The Mighty Tiger $2.5M
2001 Van Nistelrooy $6.4M
2000 Tasmanian Tiger $6.8M
Keeneland July Yearling Sale
2002 One Cool Cat $3.1M
1999 Norway $3M
1997 Forestry $1.5M
1996 Pargata King $1.7M
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.