By Andrew Caulfield
History has an intriguing habit of repeating itself, with the latest instance concerning the former Aidan O’Brien champions Giant’s Causeway and Declaration of War.
Giant’s Causeway retired to Coolmore after ending his career with a highly admirable neck second to Tiznow in the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt. He was transferred to Ashford Stud after only one season in Ireland, but his Irish crop contained the Classic winners Footstepsinthesand and Shamardal.
The curtain also came down on Declaration of War’s career after he had been narrowly beaten by Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He too was to spend one season at Coolmore before being transferred to Ashford, and he too has now sired a Classic-winning son in his Irish crop, with Olmedo following in Shamardal’s footsteps in winning the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains.
Declaration of War’s racing career hadn’t been quite as stellar as Giant’s Causeway’s but both won the G1 Juddmonte International and both earned champion status. Both also proved themselves equally effective over a mile and a mile and a quarter, with Declaration of War gaining his first Group 1 success when he took the G1 Queen Anne S. at Royal Ascot.
With Declaration of War winning two Group 1s, as opposed to Giant’s Causeway’s six, he stood his Irish season at €40,000, compared to Giant’s Causeway’s IR100,000gns. A direct comparison of the achievements of their respective first crops is therefore somewhat unfair.
Also, it wouldn’t be realistic to expect Declaration of War’s first juveniles to be as precocious as Giant’s Causeway’s. While both horses were unbeaten at two, Giant’s Causeway was a Group 1 winner ranked the second-best juvenile in Europe, whereas Declaration of War had his line cast in much quieter waters by his then trainer Jean-Claude Rouget. The son of War Front didn’t make his debut until Nov. 10, when he decisively won a newcomers’ race over 1 1/16 miles on Pornichet’s all-weather track. Then in mid-December he trounced the opposition in a Class D contest over 7 1/2 furlongs of Deauville’s all-weather track.
It was these full-of-potential displays by Joseph Allen’s homebred colt that brought him to the attention of the Coolmore partners, who bought into him and had him transferred to Ireland. Unfortunately, he didn’t race again until September and he tackled nothing more demanding than a pair of Group 3s on his return, confirming his aptitude for all-weather tracks when he landed the Diamond S. over 1 5/16 miles.
At this stage Timeform rated him 116p, but his exploits as a 4-year-old bumped that up to 128. In other words, Declaration of War improved from two to three and again from three to four, in much the same way that his sire War Front had done during his three years on the track.
This partly explains why the parallels between Giant’s Causeway and Declaration of War began to diverge at the end of their first year with runners. By the end of 2004 Giant’s Causeway had three group-winning 2-year-olds to his credit, including Europe’s unbeaten champion 2-year-old Shamardal and his fellow future Classic winner Footstepsinthesand. In the process he landed the title of champion first-crop sire, an achievement which sent his fee soaring from $75,000 in his fourth season to $200,000 in his fifth.
Declaration of War’s start was quieter, although Olmedo helped turn the spotlight on him by achieving ‘TDN Rising Star’ status on his impressive debut. Olmedo also failed by only a short-head to land the G3 Prix des Chenes and finally came out best of the colts in Happily’s G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.
There were also good efforts in Europe from his daughters Actress (a Group 1-placed Group 3 winner) and Eirene, while his American runners included the Grade III-placed Irish Territory. The Pulpit S. success by Speed Franco came in December, after Declaration of War’s 2018 fee had been set at $25,000–a reduction of $10,000 from last year.
With Olmedo and Speed Franco becoming group/graded winners this year, to increase Declaration of War’s total to three, there is good reason for thinking that Declaration of War’s fee may be heading upwards before too long, though there has inevitably been a bias towards turf performers from his Irish crop.
It will be fascinating to see whether this bias continues with his first American crop, which averaged over $100,000 off a fee of $40,000. I see no reason why he shouldn’t sire smart performers on both surfaces. After all, he showed top-class form on dirt and turf, as well as winning three times on all-weather tracks, and his pedigree contains plenty of accomplished dirt performers. His dam Tempo West was a half-sister to Union Rags, a GI Belmont S. winner who has four Grade I dirt winners from his first two crops.
This dirt/turf debate is probably irrelevant to Olmedo, who seems to be ideally suited to a sound surface which allows him to quicken impressively. He was well bought for €100,000 as a yearling. His family once did sterling work for the late Daniel Wildenstein, who bought his fifth dam, the German 1000 Guineas and Oaks winner Schonbrunn. Southern Seas, a daughter of Schonbrunn, did particularly well, winning four times at up to two miles before developing into a highly effective broodmare. She numbered the G2 Prix Jean de Chaudenay winner Seurat and the late-developing Steinlen among her four stakes winners. Steinlen didn’t win in France until he was four and he then proved a revelation when transferred to D. Wayne Lukas in the U.S. Steinlen’s 16 wins from 35 American starts included the GI Arlington Million and the GI Breeders’ Cup Mile as a 6-year-old. He was seven when he gained the last of his four Grade I victories, in the Hollywood Turf H.
Olmedo’s third dam Supergirl was an unraced half-sister to Steinlen. She produced another high-class performer in the G2 Prix Noailles winner Super Celebre, who in 2003 chased home Dalakhani in both the G1 Prix Lupin and the G1 Prix du Jockey-Club.
Olmedo’s dam Super Pie is by the champion broodmare sire Pivotal but, like many daughters of this high-class sprinter, she demonstrated more stamina than her sire, winning a newcomers’ race over 1 3/16 miles at Deauville. Olmedo’s second dam, the Linamix mare Super Lina, was second in the G3 Prix Penelope and fourth in the G1 Prix Saint-Alary, so was suited by middle distances, so there is every chance that Olmedo will stay well enough to have a live chance of following in Shamardal’s footsteps even further, in the G1 Prix du Jockey-Club.