Leading California Sire Unusual Heat Dies At 27

by | 05.17.2017 | 7:36pm
Leading California sire Unusual Heat

Unusual Heat, the all time leading sire in California by Progeny Earnings died May 17 due to complications from arthritis-induced laminitis. He was 27.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I have to report the passing of Unusual Heat today”, said Harris Auerbach, managing partner of the Unusual Heat Syndicate. “He gave so much to racing, breeding and Thoroughbred Retirement here in California. He provided the impetus for Cal-breds to be at the forefront of California Racing with runners that filled fields and raised the quality standard of the state breds during his era. He was also the driving force behind the creation of CARMA which has led to millions of dollars of funding for our retirees here in California. He will be sorely missed, especially to those of us who loved and admired him.”

Co-owner and former trainer Barry Abrams remarked about Unusual Heat, “He's done more for California racing than anybody. His legacy will continue forever.”

Co-owner Madeline Auerbach said, “I will miss him sorely. He has been part of my family and life for the last 20 years. Being a part of him is a gift and a blessing that cannot be replicated. What his stature and presence has allowed me to do for retired thoroughbreds is incalculable.”

Bred in Kentucky by John T.L. Jones, Jr., Unusual Heat was the son of Nureyev and Danish Champion mare Rossard. In 1991, he became one of the highest priced horses ever sold at a Barrett's yearling auction fetching a price of $250,000. He went on to race both in Europe and in North America with trainers Dermot Weld, Richard Mandella and Barry Abrams. He was a multiple listed stakes winner who finished with a career record of 16-6-2-2 and career earnings of $142,605.

Where Unusual Heat made his most significant impact in the breeding shed. Under the ownership and management of Auerbach and Abrams, Unusual Heat stood his first season at Walter Greenman's Farm in Hemet, CA before moving to Old English Rancho near Sanger, where he spent the bulk of his early stallion career. In 2010, he moved to John C. Harris' Harris Farms in Coalinga, CA where spent the last six seasons of his career at stud finished his career covering 30 mares in his 19th and final season in 2016.

The impact of Unusual Heat on California breeding and racing was far-reaching during his career. From a humble first crop of 15, Unusual Heat had 11 runners and 10 of them won in their first start starting a ride like has never been seen in the Golden State. To date, his runners have amassed $54.3 Million in worldwide progeny earnings. He has produced 12 graded stakes winners (five G1 winners), 54 overall stakes winners, 18 additional graded stakes horses and an astounding 157 earners of over $100,000 and 81 earners of over $200,000 out of just 572 starters. He has won six California leading sire championships and is still the reigning California-conceived leading turf sire with 13 straight championships (2004-2016).

Unusual Heat has also produced 15 California champions, including two-time California Horse of the Year and 2011 Eclipse Award Winner Acclamation.

An important part of Unusual Heat's story is his impact away from the races and the breeding shed in California. His rise to stardom as stallion and the success of his runners gave Madeline Auerbach the impetus and the stature to start raising awareness about thoroughbred retirement and taking care of the sports equine athletes after their careers were over.

Through her election to the Thoroughbred Owners of California Board of Directors, Auerbach was able to work with the California Horse Racing Board on the formation, certification and funding of CARMA- California Retirement Management Account funding thoroughbred retirement in California. Using Unusual Heat and his progeny as inspiration, under Auerbach's leadership CARMA has granted over $5 Million to racehorse retirement, placement and retraining since 2008.


Unusual Heat is currently represented by six sons at stud, five of whom stand in California along with Unusual Suspect in Australia. He is also making an impact as a broodmare sire with seven graded stakes winners since 2015 including two G1 winners and 2017 G3 Transylvania Stakes Winner, Big Score.

  • Ida Lee

    Beautiful boy….RIP Unusual Heat….condolences to all who loved, cared and admired this great sire…

  • john

    This horse was a game changer for Cal Stallions…huge hooves to fil.

  • Judy Gaddis

    Wow — he covered 30 mares in 2016???? That is totally amazing to me. I am hoping that he did this comfortably considering what was stated as his cause of death………………

    A beautiful stallion and CERTAINLY an impact on the breed to be seen for many, many generations to come.

    Rest In Peace, Gorgeous. Thank you for everything that you gave to us. And, of course, condolences to all who loved him.

  • greg

    While his loss will not be replaced as a stallion in Calif. as important is how his trainer Barry Abrams is doing? While in Calif. I knew Barry pretty well, after his bout with throat cancer and subsequent end of his training career I haven’t heard anything. If anyone knows or if Ray wants to do an awesome story about him, how is Barry doing today??

  • Jbumi

    Not just my condolences to Unusual Heat’s people, but also my thanks for CARMA. All horses will benefit going forward.

    RIP, Unusual Heat, you’ll be remembered for your impact on & off the track.

  • Deb

    What a beautiful horse! I know how they can become family. I lost my pony to the awful laminitis and I feel the loss everyday. He really was a lovely looking horse, a kind face.

  • bluetree

    Very sad to hear. I got to visit with him about 8 or 9 years ago and the old boy let me give him a good rump scratch in his paddock. His knee was a little funky but he was still a handsome guy and a fitting flagbearer for Nureyev. RIP.

    • copperhead

      Thank you for sharing your photos with us. He was indeed a handsome guy, may he RIP.

  • railbird

    I’m not in the horse industry, but am a big fan of horse racing in California. I count myself as lucky to have been able to visit Unusual Heat when he stood at Old English Rancho and have several photos to remind me of that visit. He was beautiful, shiny in the sun, and proud. I have followed his progeny and will continue to do so. I will miss him greatly.

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