Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Raging Fever: Meant to be a Star

There’s no doubt that when Edward P. Evans sent Pennant Fever to Overbook Farms to visit Storm Cat in 1997 that he was expecting a future star. Pennant Fever came from a long line of champions and Storm Cat – standing for $150,000 – had sired many talented horses himself, including the Preakness Stakes (GI)- and Belmont Stakes (GI)-winning Tabasco Cat. The two together had already produced Stormin Fever, who would go on to win the Sport Page Handicap (GIII) and place second in two runnings of the Vosburgh Stakes (GI).

Pennant Fever’s bloodlines hinted that she would become a sensational broodmare. She was by the great sire and 1977 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew, and out of the black-type-placed Letty’s Pennant, who also produced the grade three-winning R. Associate. Her third, fourth, and fifth dams were all Reine De Course mares. Her third dam, Nalee, was a multiple stakes-winning mare who produced a group one winner, five graded stakes-placed horses, two ungraded stakes winners, and two black-type-placed horses. Her fourth dam, Levee, was the multiple stakes-winning 1970 Broodmare of the Year and dam of four stakes winners, including the champion Shuvee. Pennant Fever’s fifth dam was Bourtai, a stakes-placed mare who produced six black-type horses and two Broodmares of the Year.

Like Pennant Fever, her 1998 foal would descend from female family number nine, which is most famous for producing the multiple group- or grade-one-winning horses Alydar, Galileo, Sea the Stars, and Shergar, the first Triple Crown winner in Sir Barton, the only horse to defeat the great Man O’ War in Upset, and some of the most influential sires of all-time in Bull Lea, Fair Play, Mahmoud, Nasrullah, and Royal Charger.

Pennant Fever’s second foal by Storm Cat was born on April 2, 1998. The nearly black filly grew into a beautifully built racehorse by the name of Raging Fever. Edward Evans sent her to trainer Mark Hennig in New York, where the filly reeled off five victories in her first five starts. Among these wins were trips to the winner’s circle in the Adirondack Stakes (GII), the Matron Stakes (GI), and the Frizette Stakes (GI). Though she was sent off as the favorite in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), she weakened to finish sixth.

Despite her disappointing run in the Breeders’ Cup, Raging Fever continued her glory. She began her sophomore campaign with a second-place finish in the Dame Mysterieuse Stakes at Gulfstream Park and a third-place finish in the Beaumont Stakes (GII) at Keeneland. She was entered in the prestigious Kentucky Oaks (GI), but it was never a very serious entry and she was scratched.

Due to a fracture of the growth plate in her stifle, Raging Fever did not start again until December. She made her return in the Garland of Roses Handicap at Aqueduct, sweeping to victory for the first time since October of the previous year. She wheeled off another win in her subsequent start, the First Lady Handicap (GIII) at Gulfstream.

Following a defeat in the Shirley Jones Handicap (GII) at the same track, Raging Fever scored two more consecutive wins in a pair of graded stakes: the Distaff Breeders’ Cup Handicap (GII) and the Bed o’ Roses Breeders’ Cup Handicap (GIII). After being beaten by a longshot in the Shuvee Handicap (GII), Raging Fever crossed the wire victoriously in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (GI). She had found the winner’s circle in a grade one race for the first time since her two-year-old campaign.

It was nearly another year before Raging Fever won again. Yet, she placed in four graded stakes races between her triumph in the Ogden Phipps and in her repeat victory in the Bed o’ Roses. However, her win in the 2003 Bed o’ Roses was the final time Raging Fever entered the winner’s enclosure.

Raging Fever left the racetrack with $1,458,198 in earnings from eleven wins, seven seconds, and three thirds in twenty-six starts. She found a home at Evans’ Spring Hill Farm in Virginia and was first sent to the prosperous sire Gone West. Raging Fever has not yet produced a stakes winner, but if her pedigree is any indication, it would be no surprise if she did.

In November of 2011, the complete dispersal of the deceased Edward P. Evans’ estate continued at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. Raging Fever, her full sister in Last Fever, and her 2011 Smart Strike filly were offered at the sale. Last Fever sold for $65,000 to Elaine Lawlor, Raging Fever’s 2011 filly sold for $1,000,000 to Stonestreet Stables & George Bolton, and Raging Fever – in foal to Quality Road – sold for $725,000 to R.J. Bennett, agent.

Raging Fever may never have been presented with an Eclipse Award, but she is still a champion. As I said in my blog post To See a Champion, “a champion is any horse that has accomplished great things.” Raging Fever is not just a champion for winning three grade ones or for being royally bred, but she is a champion for enduring hardships while still maintaining an impressive race record. Perhaps she will not be the broodmare she was expected to be, or perhaps she will someday produce a champion. Nevertheless, Raging Fever was bred to be a star and she accomplished just that.

Raging Fever
Photo by Terri Cage
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