November 29, 2023

Giant’s Causeway, champion runner and sire for Coolmore, dead at 21

Giant's Causeway was arguably the legendary Storm Cat's most successful son (photo courtesy of Coolmore America)

Giant’s Causeway, “The Iron Horse” three-year-old star of the 2000 European racing season and world-renowned sire, died Monday night at his Ashford Stud birthplace in Kentucky at the age of 21. Coolmore, revealing the news Tuesday, attributed the death to “a brief illness.”

First or second in all 13 career starts, Giant’s Causeway was a six-time Group 1 winner, including five in succession in the summer and fall of 2000 ranging from a mile to a mile and a quarter. He was dubbed “The Iron Horse” for winning those five by margins of three-quarters of a length or less, and losing three others by a half-length or less.

Giant’s Causeway was unbeaten in three starts as a juvenile, winning the Prix de la Salamandre (G1) in his season finale. Following a victory in the Gladness (G3) at The Curragh to open his sophomore campaign, he finished second in the 2000 Guineas (G1) and Irish 2000 Guineas (G1), the latter by a neck.

The Storm Cat colt’s five-race win streak commenced in the St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot over a mile, followed by a score against older rivals in the Eclipse (G1) at Sandown at 10 furlongs. That was followed by wins in the Sussex (G1) at Goodwood at a mile and then the Juddmonte International (G1) at York and Irish Champion (G1) at Leopardstown, both at 1 1/4 miles.

The win streak was snapped with a half-length loss in the Queen Elizabeth II (G1) at Ascot, but one of Giant’s Causeway’s best races, also a loss, was ahead. In his one and only attempt on dirt, the Aidan O’Brien trainee fell a determined neck short of Horse of the Year Tiznow in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs after a thrilling stretch battle.

Retired with earnings of $3,077,960, Giant’s Causeway stood his first year at stud at Coolmore Ireland before relocating to Ashford in Kentucky. He sired five Group 1 winners in his first crop, including multiple champion Shamardal and 2000 Guineas winner Footstepsinthesand.

In addition to champion juvenile filly Take Charge Brandi, Giant’s Causeway was the sire of U.S. Grade 1 winners Aragorn, Carpe Diem, Giant Oak, My Typhoon, Swift Temper, Heatseeker, Imagining, Brody’s Cause, Red Giant, Creative Cause, First Samurai, Book Review, Carriage Trail, Frost Giant, Internallyflawless, and Eskendereya. His 31 career Grade/Group 1 winner worldwide also include 1000 Guineas winner Ghanaati as well as top-level scorers in German, Japan, Australia, and South Africa.

“To foal, raise and race a horse of Giant’s Causeway’s caliber is every owner/breeder’s dream, so for him to stand as a stallion at his birthplace, and go on to be a three-time Champion Sire is nothing short of sensational,” said Coolmore America manager Dermot Ryan.

As a broodmare sire, Giant’s Causeway is represented by 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner and U.S. Grade 1 winners Verrazano, Hawkbill, Free Drop Billy, Romantic Vision, Evening Jewel, Eden’s Moon.

“Giant’s Causeway was a once in a lifetime horse, and I would like to thank the owners, the Magnier and Tabor families, for entrusting us with his stud career,” Ryan added. “I would also like to extend my gratitude to all of the stallion handlers at Ashford past and present for providing the highest level of care for Giant, in particular Blaise Benjamin and Richard Barry. He will be a huge loss not just to us, but to the industry as a whole.”

Reared by multiple Grade 2 winner Mariah’s Storm, by Rahy, Giant’s Causeway is a full brother to You’resothrilling, herself the dam of classic winners Gleneagles and Marvellous, and Group 1 winner Happily, among others.

Here are highlights of Giant’s Causeway’s racing career:

2000 St James’s Palace (Royal Ascot)

2000 Eclipse Stakes (Sandown)

2000 Sussex Stakes (Goodwood)

2000 Juddmonte International (York)

2000 Irish Champion Stakes (Leopardstown)

2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic (Churchill Downs)