02/17/2011 4:30PM

Leading sire of 2010: Giant's Causeway

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Giant’s Causeway has always been in demand, and his second consecutive leading sire title makes his 2011 stud fee of $85,000 seem downright conservative when compared with the six horses in Kentucky who stand for more.

Giant’s Causeway entered stud at Coolmore Stud in Ireland in 2001 but made only one season there. Because of strong demand from American breeders who loved his brave runner-up finish in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic to Tiznow, now also a leading sire, Giant’s Causeway was transferred to the Kentucky division at Ashford Stud for 2002.

Ashford Stud manager Dermot Ryan gave a nod to those breeders when discussing Giant’s Causeway’s back-to-back sire titles.

“It endorses just how good he is, and it’s also a credit to the breeders who support him,” Ryan said.

Giant’s Causeway’s leading earner in 2010 was Eskendereya, who charged to glory as a 3-year-old with wins in the Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial Stakes before an injury ended his career. At that point, in mid-April, Giant’s Causeway was already on top of the sires list. With his big horse out, he soldiered on like the iron horse he was on the track and continued to throw reinforcements into the fray.

Giant’s Causeway’s progeny earnings were temporarily surpassed by the deceased Maria’s Mon after Super Saver won the rich purse in Kentucky Derby, and then by Distorted Humor after Drosselmeyer’s Belmont Stakes victory, but he regained the lead in November and didn’t let go. He ended 2010 as the leading sire by more than $100,000 over Distorted Humor and was also the leading sire of stakes winners with 24, six more than his nearest competitor, Distorted Humor. By year’s end, Giant’s Causeway was represented by nine graded or group winners in the Northern Hemisphere: Grade 1 winners Eskendereya, Giant Oak, and Arcadius in North America; Group 1 winner Rite of Passage in England; Neko Bay; Santiva; Connemara; Await the Dawn; and Hold Me Back.

“Soundness is a huge factor with him,” Ryan said. “He retired sound, and he gets sound horses.”

Another hallmark of Giant’s Causeway’s progeny is their ability over middle distances, no matter the surface. He is fourth on the list of leading sires of runners on synthetic surfaces and 10th among sires of turf runners.

Giant’s Causeway was a master in the range of 10 furlongs in his racing days, winning the Juddmonte International, Coral-Eclipse, and Champion Stakes, and finishing second to Tiznow in the Classic as a 3-year-old. His son Eskendereya won out to nine furlongs but never got a chance to go farther because of his injury. Giant Oak’s 2010 Grade 1 win came at nine furlongs. Rite of Passage won his Group 1 in the prestigious Ascot Gold Cup, galloping 20 furlongs, and Arcadius won his Grade 1 going the same distance over jumps.

Giant’s Causeway’s star juvenile of 2010 was Santiva, winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes over 1 1/16 miles in late November at Churchill. Santiva is more typical of the Giant’s Causeway model, getting better with age and distance. He starts next in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds on Saturday.

Although Giant’s Causeway has worked very well with Mr. Prospector-line mares, Ryan submits that he crosses well with everything.

Giant’s Causeway has established himself as the leading son of his great sire, Storm Cat, the result of a well-planned effort by Coolmore, which felt sons of Storm Cat were the way to go. The operation has stood more than a few Storm Cat stallions in Ireland and Kentucky, including Hennessy (now deceased) and the highly successful Tale of the Cat, who is having a good run at Ashford.

Through Tuesday, Giant’s Causeway had 98 stakes winners and 7 percent stakes winners to foals. There has been a rapid influx of his sons at stud in the last few years, and there are nine sons of Giant’s Causeway at stud in Kentucky hoping to carry on their sire’s leading sire title.
Anne Peters is a pedigree consultant and freelance writer based in Kentucky.