No matter what the visually spectacular Giant’s Causeway did on the race track (where he earned over $3 million in just 13 lifetime races) or does as a world-class sire, he will always be thought of in terms of the money that surrounds him and his very existence.
Giant’s Causeway is a tall and robust chestnut. If he lived during the golden age of the Roaring 20’s, he would have been owned and raced by the Great Gatsby or F. Scott Fitzgerald.
As it is, in the case of Giant’s Causeway, truth is stranger than fiction. And the truth about the over-achiever is that his stud fee not too many years ago was $300,000 for a live foal.
Everything surrounding the strapping chestnut smells of money, as the green crispness of millions accompany his owner and tag alongside his trainer. When sent to stud in the year 2001 after racing only two years, Giant’s Causeway was nearly an overnight success. By 2006, he stood for $300,000. The next year, the fabulously wealthy Coolmore Stud’s American operation at Ashford outside Lexington kept his fee private — meaning it was likely even more costly than what was charged the year before.
When racing in 1999 and 2000, he was being trained by Irishman Aidan O’Brien, the son of a farmer/horse trainer from Killegney, near Poulpeasty, in County Wexford.
When first leaving his father’s small farm, O’Brien became an amateur jockey for two years and he did well. But when he applied for a trainer’s license at age 23, his riding days were finished.
He has been the private trainer at Ballydoyle Stables in County Tipperary for billionaire John Magnier and Coolmore Stud. He took that position in 1996 at the still wet-behind-the-ears age of 27.
The dapper O’Brien got his start on the National Hunt circuit in Ireland. He was able to break records by winning the jumps championship in his first season. After two years as a steeplechase trainer, O’Brien went exclusively to flat racing.
Now at Coolmore, the advantages of the piled millions that company has are evident to the trainer on an everyday basis.
The 43-year-old Irishman has been blessed with some of the most talented thorougbreds that have won Grade I or European Group I races the world over. The most revered (and richest) races in Ireland, Canada, France, Great Britain, Italy, and the United States have been won by thoroughbreds trained by O’Brien.
In the last 15 years, he has trained 33 thoroughbreds that had winnings of at least $1.5 million.
The list of his trainees include Galileo, High Chaparral, Mozart, Johannesburg, Duke of Marmalade, Lillie Langtry, Camelot, Misty For Me, Rock of Gibraltar, Scorpion, Rip Van Winkle, and Fame And Glory.
In the United States, his thoroughbreds have won seven Breeders’ Cup races, including three Breeders’ Cup Turf wins.
Giant’s Causeway is so surrounded by the royalty of champions in his background that more money rears its influential head.
His sire is Storm Cat, the country’s most expensive sire for several years. Three of his grandparents are Storm Bird, Terlingua, and Rahy.
Go back another generation and you find Secretariat, Northern Dancer, and Roberto (Europe’s leading sire for a number of years).
Giant’s Causeway was owned while racing for two years by Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor, both able to put their hands on billions through either marriage or by being a dominant and powerful businessman as a legal bookmaker England.
When he tanned the competition in Europe and the United States as a three-year-old, Giant’s Causeway was given the nickname “Iron Horse” by the media in Great Britain. He was able to win five straight Group I races in 2000. That string of success tied the five consecutive Group I races taken in hand by Nijinsky II.
In his 13 lifetime races, the bold chestnut won nine times. He never finished worse than second in any of his races.
His six Group I wins came in the Juddmonte International (at York), the Coral Eclipse Stakes (at Sandown), the Irish Champion Stakes (at Leopardstown), the St. James’s Palace (at Royal Ascot), the Sussex Stakes (at Goodwood), and the Pris de la Salamandre (at Longchamps).
He finished second in the 2,000 Guineas, the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
For his many successes in 2000, Giant’s Causeway was voted European Horse of the Year.
When at Ashford Stud, he was the leading North American sire in both 2009 and 2010.
His 132 foals won over $14 million in 2009. The 130 foals from 2002 earned $13 million on the race track. The 134 runners foaled that year earned nearly $13 million in 2003, and the 138 thoroughbreds that found the race track in 2006 made over $11 million.
As late as 2011, he was the No.1 sire of graded stakes winners. That year, he had yearlings sell at auction for $1,250,000, $1,200,000, and $1,150,000.
With his on-track record in 13 lifetime starts and his polished record at stud, when the racing industry turns its attention to the sons and daughters of Storm Cat it is Giant’s Causeway that is the one that comes to mind.
The heavily muscled and timber tall chestnut differs from his sire in that his line have been late in maturing and do better in distance races than do a high percentage of Storm Cat’s progeny that mature early and prefer sprints instead of distance races.
Giant’s Causeway’s first “crop” of sons and daughters was successful with Shamardal and Footstepsinthesand winning classic races. Those two have now sired Group I and Grade I winners themselves.
It’s thoroughbreds like those two that can legitimately bring to Giant’s Causeway the nickname of “Sire of Sires”.
Now at age16, the sleek maple syrup-colored thoroughbred is still in demand by industry trainers and owners. His stud fee is currently $85,000 per live foal.
He had more advantages than most thoroughbreds. And he has turned those advantages brought by the wheel barrows of money into many more millions for his well-heeled caretakers.