Giant’s Causeway Passes Away

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Giant’s Causeway | Coolmore photo

By Alan Carasso

After Giant’s Causeway (Storm Cat–Mariah’s Storm, by Rahy) dropped the narrowest of decisions in the 2000 GI Breeders’ Cup Classic, following one of the greatest stretch battles in the history of the event, jockey Mick Kinane told the Irish Times: “If his progeny inherit a fraction of his speed and courage, the sport will be spoilt for champions.”

That statement could not have been more prescient about “The Iron Horse,” who died after a brief illness at his birthplace at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky, the night of April 16, 2018. He was 21 years of age.

A sleek chestnut with a unique blaze, Giant’s Causeway was the first foal for his brilliant dam, who was bought by the Coolmore connections for a ‘mere’ $2.6 million at the 1996 Keeneland November sale carrying the Storm Cat foal in utero. Never worse than second in his 13 career appearances, including six Group 1 tallies, Giant’s Causeway became a three-time leading sire, whose progeny excelled on all surfaces in all corners of the globe.

“To foal, raise and race a horse of Giant’s Causeway’s caliber is every owner/breeder’s dream, so for him to stand as a stallion at his birthplace, and go on to be a three-time champion sire is nothing short of sensational,” commented Coolmore America manager Dermot Ryan.

“Giant’s Causeway was a once in a lifetime horse, and I would like to thank the owners, the Magnier and Tabor families, for entrusting us with his stud career. I would also like to extend my gratitude to all of the stallion handlers at Ashford past and present for providing the highest level of care for Giant, in particular Blaise Benjamin and Richard Barry. He will be a huge loss not just to us, but to the industry as a whole.”

A Deserved Nickname…

Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Giant’s Causeway was perfect in three starts as a juvenile, including the G1 Prix de la Salamandre, then maintained his unblemished mark when prepping for the European mile Classics in the G3 Gladness S. Runner-up as the favorite in the G1 Sagitta 2000 Guineas and in the Irish equivalent three weeks later, Giant’s Causeway bounced back with a gritty score in the G1 St James’s Palace S. at Royal Ascot (video) before venturing outside of age-restricted company. Trying 10 furlongs for the first time in the 2000 G1 Coral-Eclipse S. (video), Giant’s Causeway proved a head better than future GI Breeders’ Cup Turf hero Kalanisi (Ire) (Doyoun {GB}), then dropped back to the mile to defeat Dansili (GB) (Danehill) in the G1 Sussex S. (video). With his dogged determination firmly on display, he outgamed Kalanisi in the G1 Juddmonte International S. (video) and made it five on the trot in the G1 Irish Champion S. He concluded the European portion of his career two weeks later with a second-place finish in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II S. and was named the Horse of the Year in Europe and highweight in England and Ireland (at 7-9.5f and 9.5-11f) for the season.

A Classic For the Ages…

While he would have been one of the choices in the GI Breeders’ Cup Mile-a race in which Dansili was third-Giant’s Causeway was allowed to take his chance in the Classic, given his dirt-oriented pedigree and his proven ability over the 10-furlong trip. Drawn widest in a field of 13, with fellow sophomore Tiznow (Cee’s Tizzy) just to his inside, Giant’s Causeway was prominent in the run, but was trapped three and four wide on the track as Tiznow argued the pace. Ridden along by Mick Kinane with 2 1/2 furlongs to race, Giant’s Causeway grinded his way up into second entering the final eighth of a mile, but couldn’t quite get to Tiznow.

“There you are, such is life,” co-owner Michael Tabor told Irish Times. “At least we still live to tell the tale and he has run his heart out. He was made for this surface and I think he should never have been trained in Europe!”

A Lasting Legacy at Stud…

Giant’s Causeway retired initially to Coolmore’s Ireland base with a record of 13-9-4-0 and earnings of $3,078,989, but unprecedented demand from America saw him relocate to Ashford Stud. From a first crop that numbered 151 foals, Giant’s Causeway was responsible for Shamardal, 2000 Guineas hero Footstepsinthesand (GB), G1 Coronation S. winner Maids Causeway (Ire), as well as Aragorn (Ire) and My Typhoon (Ire)–the latter a half-sister to Galileo (Ire)–in the United States. He was no one-hit wonder, as he transferred his stallion prowess to America, where he became the first horse since Danzig to top the U.S. general sires’ list on three occasions (2009, 2010, 2012).

Overall, Giant’s Causeway has accounted for no fewer than 31 Group 1/Grade I winners in nine countries (U.S, France, England, Germany, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Chile and Peru). Of his total of 178 black-type winners worldwide, fully 104 have come at the group/graded level. The sire of 1,276 winners worldwide, Giant’s Causeway is responsible for eight champions and his progeny have earned in excess of $165 million. Giant’s Causeway also produced 2009 Breeders’ Cup Marathon hero Man of Iron, a son of Better Than Honour now standing in Peru; and Take Charge Brandi, upset winner of the 2014 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

While the aforementioned Shamardal and Footstepsinthesand have flown the flag admirably for their sire, predominantly overseas, Giant’s Causeway has become a reliable sire of sires in the United States as well. His Airdrie Stud-based son Creative Cause is the sire of GI Kentucky Derby hopeful My Boy Jack, while his other successful sons at stud include First Samurai, Eskendereya and Frost Giant. Several Central Kentucky nurseries can boast of young sons of Giant’s Causeway in their stallion barns, including WinStar Farm’s ‘TDN Rising Star’ Carpe Diem, the same farm’s Fed Biz and Spendthrift Farm’s Brody’s Cause.

Daughters of Giant’s Causeway have produced 89 black-type winners, of which 46 are group/graded winners. He is the broodmare sire of 16 Grade I/Group 1 winners, including 2017 U.S. Horse of the Year, champion older male and near $16-million earner Gun Runner, the son of GSW Quiet Giant. Giant’s Causeway was represented at the recent Dubai World Cup meeting by G1 Dubai Sheema Classic hero Hawkbill (Kitten’s Joy), while dual Grade I winner Verrazano (More Than Ready)–a son of Enchanted Rock–will look to further Giant’s Causeway’s lofty reputation at Ashford.

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