By Katie Petrunyak
It will be exactly 23 years ago on Sunday- August 23, 1997. Julie Krone vividly, and affectionately, recalls the day that she and Tale of the Cat took the GII King's Bishop S.
“We had an inside post that day, and there were some great sprinters,” Krone recounted. “It was a really tough field, but Tale of the Cat literally had wings. He just came out of there and it was like the faster we went, the more his ears came up and his stride got longer and more relaxed. To feel him grab the ground and be as fast as he was with the wind blowing by you, and then to be able to put your hands on his neck and push and have him go even faster yet, it was an amazing feeling.”
Krone rode the nimble son of Storm Cat to a five and-a-half length victory that day at Saratoga, as was she aboard in his eight other career starts. Together, they ran in the money in all but one of those races, including three Grade I's.
“Tale of the Cat was one of the most beautiful, put-together sprinters I've ever ridden in my life,” Krone said. “He was such a great horse and was so capable of that high cruising speed.”
She uses the term 'mentally-strong' to describe his personality.
“Everything he did had to do with how his brain worked a little faster,” the Hall of Famer said. “He was aggressive and so you just had to plan ahead and know what you were going to do.”
She remembers working the colt through his first relaxed breezes before his winning debut, insisting to trainer John Forbes that the youngster was going to be something special.
“From the very first time he breezed to when he matured as an older horse, he was always together,” she recalled. “He always got his lead changes and was quick to learn how to break out of the starting gate. All the things that make a sprinter a great sprinter, he just came with those things.”
Now over two decades later as the elder statesman of Ashford Stud, Tale of the Cat has greatly contributed to building the fortress that is the American arm of Coolmore. With 19 crops on the ground, he's produced 1,146 winners to date, a figure surpassed only slightly by fellow Coolmore sire Galileo (Ire), and ranks him as the leading active sire in North American by cumulative winners.
“Tale of the Cat was one of the most impressive early stallions that we ever had here,” said Coolmore America's Adrian Wallace. “He's stood the test of time and has been a wonderful servant to Ashford Stud. Horses like Tale of the Cat, he's responsible for this farm. He has built countless barns. He's furnished and bought countless mares. He's a small enterprise in himself.”
Tale of the Cat's pedigree is infused with Coolmore-affiliated blood, both old and new, with his grandsire Storm Bird the founding stallion at Ashford Stud.
His dam Yarn (Mr. Prospector), part of a prominent breed-shaping broodmare duo with her full sister Preach, also produced Minardi (Boundary), who was bred like Tale of the Cat at Indian Creek and was named a European juvenile champion for Coolmore in 2000. Additionally, through her daughter Myth (Ogygian), Yarn is the granddam of Johannesburg (Hennessy), a juvenile champion in Europe and the U.S. for Coolmore before he retired to Ashford and sired the late leading stallion Scat Daddy, whose sons Justify and Mendelssohn now stand alongside Tale of the Cat at Ashford.
“He has a very illustrious family behind him,” Wallace said of his damside.”It's a really current pedigree and it's one of the best, most iconic American pedigrees.”
Of the sire line, he added, “The Storm Cat sire line is responsible for a lot of our success over here, and it's one that we will keep looking to go back to. Tale of the Cat is very emblematic of that.”
Since entering stud in 1999, he has sired seven Grade I winners, headlined by Gio Ponti, who collected seven Grade I's in his own right, plus three Eclipse Awards, and is now a Grade I-producing sire. Tale of the Cat's leading daughter, Stopcharingmaria, made waves on the New York circuit, taking the GI Coaching Club American Oaks- GI Alabama S. double at Saratoga before winning the 2015 GI Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Two of his sons, Lion Heart and Tale of Ekati, were dual Grade I winners and are now showing their hand as sires.
Both progeny come from mares from the Hail to Reason line, with Lion Heart out of a Mr. Leader mare and Tale of Ekati out of a mare by Halo's best son Sunday Silence. Stopchargingmaria also has a second dam by Kris S (Roberto) who hails from the same line.
Despite the achievements with this family, Wallace said that Tale of the Cat has found success with a wide variety of mares.
“One of the great things about him was that he was very versatile,” he said. “Being by Storm Cat and out of a Mr. Prospector mare meant he suited a wide range of American families. He had a huge amount of success when inbred to Mr. Prospector. He worked very well with Unbridled's Song, as well as the Seattle Slew line.”
Tale of the Cat produced six stakes winners with mares by Unbridled's Song, including three Grade II winners in A Shin Top, Appealing Tale and Alpha Kitten, as well as the Grade I-placed Luminance. His Grade I winner Cat Moves is out of a mare by Capote (Seattle Slew) and he sired two additional graded/group winners out of Seattle Slew mares with Tale of a Champion and Ilusora.
“He got very good 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and older horses,” Wallace said. “He got runners on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces. So he's a horse that really suited a wide range of breeders.”
The 26-year-old stallion is still active at stud, although in his twilight years of his career having bred 32 mares last year, and a combined 138 in the three years prior.
“We're delighted to be talking about Tale of the Cat because he's one of the unsung heroes at this farm,” Wallace said. “He's a horse that's been here longer than I've been here, having arrived in 1999. He's our elder statesman and we're very proud of him. His contribution to the Thoroughbred breed and to Ashford Stud is immeasurable.”