02/13/2015 3:51PM

Leading Kentucky sires: Giant's Causeway

Barbara D. Livingston
Giant's Causeway is based at Coolmore's Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky.

Leading Kentucky juvenile sire by earnings and average earnings
Leading Kentucky general sire by winners

For all he has achieved at stud, there were a few accomplishments Giant’s Causeway had yet to check off his list. He was able to cross one off in 2014.

Take Charge Brandi became the first Eclipse Award winner for her sire with a late-season surge to secure the divisional title as champion 2-year-old filly. Her efforts helped propel Giant’s Causeway, an 18-year-old Storm Cat horse based at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., atop the 2014 Kentucky juvenile earnings leader board with $2,974,371, outpacing Gainesway’s Afleet Alex, sire of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red, by more than $1 million. He had two additional juvenile stakes winners. Giant’s Causeway was also Kentucky’s leading juvenile sire by average earnings, leading general sire by winners, and second by overall earnings behind record-shattering Tapit.

“Giant’s Causeway had a fantastic year with his 2-year-olds in 2014, but it certainly wasn’t without precedent, as he has been champion juvenile sire before,” Ashford Stud manager Dermot Ryan said. “It was great to see Take Charge Brandi honored with an Eclipse Award, as she is a great advertisement for the kind of toughness and ability Giant’s Causeway is known for passing onto his progeny.”

Giant’s Causeway’s toughness earned him the nickname “The Iron Horse” in Europe, as he won 9 of 13 career starts, never finishing worse than second, earning just over $3 million. In 2000, he earned European Horse of the Year honors with five Group 1 victories, taking the Sussex, St. James’s Palace, Eclipse, and Juddmonte International in England, as well as the Irish Champion Stakes. He placed in a trio of other Grade/Group 1 events that yea, being runner-up in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in his career finale.

Giant’s Causeway began his stud career at Coolmore’s Irish headquarters in 2001 but was relocated to Ashford the following season and has been based there since. He quickly established himself as heir apparent to prolific sire Storm Cat’s, finishing among the top 10 general sires every year since 2005 and leading that list in 2009, 2010, and 2012. He has sired champions in six countries, led by the European classic winner Shamardal and Canadian classic winner Irish Mission. Giant’s Causeway also sired Showcause (New Zealand), Giant’s Steps (Chile), Step In Time (Saudi Arabia), Kung Fu Mambo (Peru), and Bambina Mia (Peru).

Remarkably, Giant’s Causeway had yet to be represented by an Eclipse Award winner. On the morning of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Take Charge Brandi appeared an unlikely candidate for the breakthrough, having lost four consecutive graded stakes to mark herself as a 61-1 longshot. However, she posted a game victory, then added the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess Stakes and the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes to secure the divisional title.

Giant’s Causeway added two other high-profile juveniles to his résumé in 2014. Carpe Diem romped by 6 1/4 lengths in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, then was runner-up as the post-time favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Mississippi Delta captured her stakes debut in the Glorious Song Stakes at Woodbine and is a finalist for the Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion 2-year-old filly.

With a plethora of young runners, Giant’s Causeway will attempt to achieve another milestone by getting his first American classic winner in 2015. His best finish in the series to date is a third by son Creative Cause in the 2012 Preakness Stakes.

Take Charge Brandi launched her 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the Martha Washington Stakes on Jan. 31 at Oaklawn Park, extending her lead atop the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard. Next, she is headed to the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes on March 7 at Oaklawn. Meanwhile, Carpe Diem is working regularly at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida for trainer Todd Pletcher and is expected to have two preps prior to the Kentucky Derby.

“It’s hard not to be excited about Take Charge Brandi and Carpe Diem looking ahead to this year’s classic races,” Ryan said. “They both have proven two-turn ability on dirt, and you would expect they can show improvement from 2 to 3 as so many of the Giant’s Causeways do.

“All eyes are on the road to Churchill Downs at this time of year, so it would be great if they can put Giant’s Causeway’s name up in lights again.”