High Brow Cat: 25-year-old leading sire changes hands

January 25th, 2013

Jack Waggoner

“All good things must come to an end.” Except for American Quarter Horse stallions who, dead or alive, are able to sire foals until their frozen semen supplies are depleted. Such is the case with High Brow Cat, the cutting industry’s all-time leading sire, with offspring earnings of more than $57 million.

The sale of the 25-year-old stallion, owned since a foal by Jack Waggoner, Bridgeport, Tex., is to be officially announced at a press conference today, January 25, at NCHA headquarters in Fort Worth, where details of the transaction will be discussed. Colt Ventures, owned by Darren and Julie Blanton, Dallas, Tex.

Short notes from the press conference: Waggoner sold High Brow Cat and his remaining semen to Colt Ventures, along with Waggoner’s remaining horses, including 25 High Brow Cat offspring; a High Brow Cat clone due this year; Waggoner Ranch and equipment; and the 22-year-old stallion Smart Aristocrat. Although the Wall Street Journal reported the selling price to be just under $9 million, Waggoner and Blanton would not confirm this.

Private investors Darren and Julie Blanton have owned and shown cutting horse for 10 years, and will continue to “stand” High Brow Cat, to a select number of mares, through the services of Weatherford Equine Breeding Facility in Weatherford, Tex.

“Breeding horses is just like building a business, you have to have a plan,” said Waggoner, who built his personal wealth in the insurance and hotel industries, and his understanding of selective breeding by raising Golden Retrievers for field trials, before he turned to cutting horses in 1982.

“When we started to breed (High Brow) Cat, people said, ‘Oh, boy, he’s a High Brow Hickory.’ But I said that this is the way a cutting horse should be bred to look and to act.”

High Brow Cat was moderately successful as a show horse with two wins, one as a 5-year-old and one as a 6-year-old, and career earnings of $110,102, and annually bred a modest number mare owners, until his seventh season, when his 3-year-olds caught the whole-hearted attention of the cutting industry.

Waggoner purchased High Brow Cat as a foal, along with his dam, Smart Little Kitty, by Smart Little Lena. At the time, Smart Little Lena was just hitting his stride as a sire.

“His mother was never shown,” said Waggoner of Smart Little Kitty. “She had her eye put out when she was a yearling, but she was out of Doc’s Kitty, maybe the best Doc Bar daughter that there ever was. And I had the advantage, I bought her first son, Smart Bronze (by Smart Little Lena and thus inbred to Smart Little Lena), and I knew what she produced. I bought her because of him. He was a little, wiry thing and he wasn’t very strong, but he was the smartest baby I had ever seen. He was very, very intelligent.”

High Brow Cat himself was from the first crop of High Brow Hickory, 1986 NCHA Futurity reserve champion, who would go on to have a mediocre stud career with 347 money earners and average offspring earnings of $13,362. His first son out of Smart Little Kitty, however, would set a new standard for cutting horse sires.

“Every once in a while a horse will come along that whatever you breed him to, it will cut,” Waggoner said. “But not very often.”

The beauty of High Brow Cat, from the outset, was the fact that he crossed well on daughters of so many different sires. While Smart Little Lena, syndicated at the start of his breeding career, had a limited but select book of mares, High Brow Cat was initially bred to a wide range of mares by numerous sires. Although he endured a six-year drought because a limited number of mares were bred to him during those years, the most being 133 in 1998, the drought ended for High Brow Cat in 2003, when One Smart Lookin Cat won the NCHA Futurity under Craig Morris, and High Brow Cougar and Miss Woody Two Shoes placed third and fourth.

Altogether, High Brow Cat accounted for seven of the 25 finalists in the 2003 NCHA Open Futurity; in the 2004 NCHA Futurity, he improved on his record with 10 open finalists; and in 2006 with 12. In addition, he has sired a record six NCHA Futurity open champions and is the dam’s sire of two more, with a double jackpot in 2012, when his son, He Bea Cat, and his granddaughter, CR Tuff Hearted Cat, out of CR Cats Meow, became NCHA Futurity co-champions.

From 1998 through 2010, High Brow Cat never bred fewer than 100 mares in one season. In 2003 and 2006 he bred 205 and 208, respectively, and 177 in 2010. The divorce of Jack and Susan Waggoner, however, necessitated a sale of their assets in October 2010, as well as extenuating legal issues over ownership of High Brow Cat and his frozen semen. He sired 88 foals in 2011 and 20 have been registered to date by AQHA from his 2012 crop.

Through January 24, AQHA shows High Brow Cat with a total of 2,205 foals, 1,326 which are performance horses, including 574 performers in 2012. Official NCHA records, to date, show High Brow Cat as the sire of 1,286 money earners with a total of $53,368,830 and average earnings of $41,500. By comparison, his closest rival among all-time leading sires of NCHA earners, Smart Little Lena, has sired 1,281 NCHA money earners with $35,819,095 and average earnings of $27,962.