High Brow Cat Found to be "Infertile"

highbrowcatsmallThe performance horse world was struck a terrible blow with the news that the cutting industry’s No. 1 sire, High Brow Cat, 22, was found to be infertile at the beginning of the 2010 season. In a letter to clients and mare owners, it was explained that Dr. Justin Ritthaler of Weatherford Equine Medical Center in Weatherford, Texas, had done everything possible in diagnosing and treating the problem and that experts from around the world had been consulted.

“Unfortunately, no treatments have improved High Brow Cat’s fertility,” the Waggoners’ letter went on to say. “The diagnosis of ‘Age-Related Testicular Degeneration’ has been made and, by all likelihood, this will be a permanent condition. Mr. Waggoner and Dr. Ritthaler have left no stone unturned in seeking treatment alternatives to this unfortunate, age-related condition.”

For now, according to Jack Waggoner, High Brow Cat’s frozen semen will be used to breed mares. In the letter, it stated, “This horse has been shown to freeze exceptionally well with post-thaw analysis being better than many stallions’ fresh samples. Dr. Ritthaler has confirmed that High Brow Cat freezes very well and remains ‘cryogenically’ fertile for years to come. Mares scheduled to High Brow Cat’s book should remain confident that they will be in for normal conception rates.”

“We’ve got enough regular frozen semen to continue with full books of mares for several years to come,” Waggoner confirmed.

This won’t be the first time that High Brow Cat’s frozen semen has been used to breed mares. In the spring two years ago, High Brow Cat underwent colic surgery and during his absence from the breeding shed, frozen semen was used to inseminate mares.

“For the last three-quarters of the season we used frozen semen and our success was 95 percent,” Waggoner said. “This was compared to 92 percent at the start of the season when we were using fresh semen. So we’re real confident that every mare that we’ve settled in the past will still get settled now.”

Mares bred to High Brow Cat will be inseminated using the “post-ovulation low-dose, deep-horn insemination” method, which basically employs a small amount of semen that is injected with the use of a flexible pipette/catheter deep into the mare’s uterine horn.

Although he’s technically “infertile,” High Brow Cat does continue to produce a limited number of sperm.

“We are still collecting him twice a week,” Waggoner said. “That gives about 50 million sperm and we use that for ICSI  [intracytoplasmic sperm injection] doses. So, we could be collecting ICSI doses for a long time.”

Although Waggoner, naturally, is disappointed by the news, he is optimistic that as the price of the ICSI procedure continues to drop, it will be affordable for mare owners to continue breeding their mares to High Brow Cat. Right now, the cost of the ICSI procedure is approximately $4,500, according to Waggoner.

“Really, this horse can breed a hundred mares [per season] for another 20 years,” Waggoner said, reiterating that High Brow Cat continues to produce viable sperm. “Sexing is real easy when you do that [ICSI], too. You would say, 'I want a Cat boy or I want a Cat girl.' ”

As for the stallion himself, he is otherwise healthy and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

“He still acts like he’s 6 or 7,” Waggoner said with a smile.

High Brow Cat (High Brow Hickory x Smart Little Kitty x Smart Little Lena) is a 1988 stallion who was bred by Hanes Chatham and Stewart Sewell, then sold in June of his weanling year to Jack and Susan Waggoner. As a performer, High Brow Cat cut to $110,784 during his four years in the show pen, with trainers Faron Hightower, Jody Galyean and Bill Freeman doing most of the showing in the Open division. In 1994, High Brow Cat’s most lucrative win came with Hightower when they won the 5/6-Year-Old Classic at the Augusta Futurity with a 221.5 score.

It was that same year that High Brow Cat’s first crop of seven foals hit the ground. He would go on to sire rather small crops for five more seasons, then caught his major stride with the 1999 crop when 118 High Brow Cat babies were born. In 2009, High Brow Cat became the cutting industry’s No.1 sire, unseating Smart Little Lena, who had held the top position for several years.

According to Equi-Stat, High Brow Cat has sired performance foals that have earned right at $39 million. His leading money earners are: Metallic Cat ($637,711), who was last year’s NCHA Horse of the Year; Boon San Kitty ($555,504); High Brow CD ($541,345); Smooth As A Cat ($500,038) and Oh Cay Felix ($439,324). He has 30 foals that have earned $200,000 and more. As for his second-generation statistics, sons of High Brow Cat have fathered 496 foals that have earned $6.4 million, led by Pretty Katz ($233,521) and Hay Maker ($204,115). His daughters have produced 146 foals that have performed to $3.8 million, a list topped by Aristo Katz ($270,162) and Rockin W ($267,321).