Tapit and Uncle Mo have received the lion’s share of Derby press this year — including from this corner — with potential multiple entries in the classic, but they aren’t the only two. Results from the last few days are a reminder that there’s a third stallion in this elite group with far-reaching influence. He’s Ashford’s Giant’s Causeway, Storm Cat’s best racehorse and stallion son and the sire now of several accomplished sons, most notably Darley’s dual classic winner and champion, Shamardal.
Shamardal got his 17th G1 winner (12th European bred) on Sunday when 4-year-old Dariyan won the G1 Prix Ganay over 2100 meters in France. On the same day in England, his 4-year-old Usherette won a G2 over 9F, and 4-year-old Royal Solitaire won a 2000-meter Listed event in Germany. If not for Galileo’s big weekend with the first three home in the 1000 Guineas and as the broodmare sire of the 2000 Guineas winner, Shamardal’s accomplishments would have received higher profile.
Winner of the G1 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) over 2100 meters and the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (2000 Guineas equivalent) at 1600 meters, Shamardal won six of seven starts and was named the European champion 3-year-old miler of 2005. Shamardal’s son Lope De Vega, who won the same two French classics as he, is now off to a successful stud career as well, so this once-quintessentially American dirt line of Storm Cat is paradoxically thriving in Europe in a form quite apart from the paradigm established here. Frank Mitchell recently addressed the waning of Storm Cat’s influence in North America in this piece, “Where have all the Storm Cats gone?”
Fortunately, Giant’s Causeway, nicknamed the “Iron Horse” for his ability to withstand a notably punishing racing campaign, is as important here as he is abroad and reigns as the king of Ashford Stud, where he was recently commemorated with a life-size bronze. A three-times leading stallion, Giant’s Causeway is the sire of 31 G1 winners worldwide, on dirt, turf, and all-weather, from age 2 and up, across the range of distances.
From the Rahy mare Mariah’s Storm, Giant’s Causeway was campaigned in Europe, where he won from distances of 6F to approximately 10.5F. He was a G1 winner at 2, and at 3 his daunting schedule included 10 races, nine of them in G1 company — unheard of for a top European colt. Among his successes were the Irish Champion, International Stakes, Sussex Stakes, St. James’s Palace Stakes, and Eclipse Stakes. He made his last start in the US on dirt in the BC Classic, a race he narrowly lost by a neck to Tiznow after a memorable run, and retired to Coolmore in Ireland with a record of nine wins from 13 starts.
After one season in Ireland, Giant’s Causeway, fortuitously for American breeders, was moved to Ashford, otherwise Storm Cat’s sire line would be further diminished here in retrospect, as Frank Mitchell stated.
Giant’s Causeway stands for $85,000 and is an excellent source of quality and stamina for American pedigrees, and in recent years he’s had more impact here than abroad. He is a sire who can lengthen a pedigree to 10F, and his offspring are suited for the Derby trip.
His two Derby runners are Brody’s Cause, winner of the G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland at 2 and the G1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland last out; and Destin, a brother to Creative Cause — fifth in the Derby and third in the Preakness — who won the G2 Tampa Bay Derby and G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, also at Tampa.
Aside from Creative Cause, Giant’s Causeway has had two notable colts on the Triple Crown trail that got hurt before or during the Derby and couldn’t show their best. One, from last year, was Carpe Diem, who like Brody’s Cause won the Futurity and Blue Grass and like Destin the Tampa Bay Derby. He was 10th at Churchill Downs — and there was buzz before the race that he wasn’t at his best — and never raced again. The other, Eskendereya, had won the G2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and the G1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct by 9 3/4 lengths and appeared to have the Derby for the taking before an injury knocked him out of the classic days before the race. He, too, never raced again. He was trained by Todd Pletcher, also the conditioner of Carpe Diem and Destin, but the latter hasn’t been pushed as hard as the other two leading up to the race.
Eskendereya, by the way, is the sire of G1 winner Mor Spirit, and Giant’s Causeway is the broodmare sire of Gun Runner, winner of the G2 Louisiana Derby, giving the Ashford sire second-generation influence on both sides of the pedigree as well.