05/18/2005 11:00PM

A solid start and a knack for classic winners

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The series of basaltic columns in Northern Ireland that make up the rock formation the Giant's Causeway stand immovable against the worst that weather and time inflict. That ability to stand firm under pressure also proved the hallmark of the racehorse named Giant's Causeway.

A chestnut son of Storm Cat and the Rahy mare Mariah's Storm, Giant's Causeway was a Group 1 winner in France at 2 with a victory in the Prix de la Salamandre. A rather elegant, medium-sized chestnut colt, he progressed markedly at 3, when he was successful in five Group 1 events: the Sussex, St. James's Palace, Eclipse, Irish Champion, and Juddmonte International.

In each of those races, Giant's Causeway was pressed hard to win, and he never flinched nor failed to give his best. In terms of character, determination, and talent, Giant's Causeway was a landmark horse, one fit to carry the name.

Tough and successful as he proved on the racecourse, Giant's Causeway may gain an even higher reputation as a stallion. One of the Big Four freshmen sires last year (along with Fusaichi Pegasus, Successful Appeal, and Yes It's True), Giant's Causeway had the leading juvenile colt and filly in England last season, and two of his first-crop offspring have won classics this spring in France and England.

Footstepsinthesand won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in England, and Shamardal won the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) at Longchamp in France. In addition to having winners in both of those colt classics so far this year, the stallion's daughter Maid's Causeway ran second in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Not surprisingly, these positive results have had the effect of raising the stud fee for Giant's Causeway, or at least they would if you could find a season to the stallion. Booked full in the neighborhood of 200 mares earlier this year with a fee of $200,000, Giant's Causeway has had only a handful of nominations added because of cancellations in his book, which is well stocked with premium mares from major European and American breeders.

Giant's Causeway's results with his first 2-year-olds last season were encouraging enough to attract some of the world's best mares. His successes this season, though, are even more impressive. Siring a pair of classic winners is a rare enough occurrence, but to have them from a sire's first group of racers is exceptional.

In 1991, the Mr. Prospector stallion Woodman was represented in Europe by classic winner Hector Protector (Poule d'Essai des Poulains) and in the United States by Hansel, who won the Preakness and Belmont.

With a pair of classic winners to his credit already, Giant's Causeway has the chance to take his excellent beginning a step further with a third classic success. Clearly, a handful of his offspring are fancied for later classics in Europe, and Noble Causeway, who was second to High Fly in the Florida Derby this spring, will bid to emulate Hansel by adding an American classic victory in the Preakness to his sire's list of accomplishments.

One of three colts trained by Nick Zito who are entered in the Preakness, Noble Causeway has been considered a classic candidate for several months by careful observers, and the colt seemed to be improving as he matured this spring. In the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, however, he ran an even race to finish 14th after being seriously checked early.

Conceived in Ireland and bred in Kentucky by Reiko and Michael Baum, Noble Causeway is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Mimi's Golden Girl.

From the first crop by Giant's Causeway, Noble Causeway sold for $1.15 million as a yearling at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale and was the highest-priced yearling by his sire.

A top-quality racehorse and top sire prospect, Giant's Causeway was expected to deliver the goods at the sales and on the racecourse. As a son of the most commercially accepted sire in the world, Storm Cat, Giant's Causeway went to stud with great competition for nominations and a massive book of mares.

Standing his initial season at stud at Coolmore in Ireland, Giant's Causeway had a fee of 100,000 Irish guineas (approximately $168,300), and for his second season at stud, he traversed the Atlantic to stand at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky., for a fee of $135,000.

As the most accomplished son of Storm Cat, along with classic winner Tabasco Cat, Giant's Causeway is a flashy chestnut with two white stockings and an irregular blaze typical of the Northern Dancer tribe. Leggy and well balanced, Giant's Causeway has quality and is less blocky than his sire. Many of his offspring seem to have even less of the Storm Cat mass, and from the evidence to date, the offspring of Giant's Causeway seem extremely well suited to racing at least a mile and will probably do quite well at middle distances also.