Memories of Giant's Causeway as a potential new Coolmore star is readied for classic glory

Gleneagles, Joseph O'Brien up, wins the G1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at the Curragh. Photo: Healy Racing/

You can plot the graph of Gleneagles’ odds for next Saturday's Qipco 2,000 Guineas quite easily. He was 33-1 after he won his maiden at the Curragh last June, 25-1 after he won the G3 Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown in July, 20-1 after he won the G2 Futurity Stakes at the Curragh in August, 16-1 after he won the G1 National Stakes at the Curragh in September. Then he won the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp in October, and the bookmakers weren’t sure what to do.

In actuality, he didn’t win it. Well, he did win it, but he lost it 20 minutes later. If the race had been run in Ireland or Britain, he would have kept the race. He was the best horse in it on the day, the winner on merit. But he drifted to his right inside the final 100 yards, squeezed up Full Mast and Territories on his inside, and, under the French rules of racing, you just can’t do that. He was never going to be allowed keep the race.

Generally available at between 8-1 and 10-1 for the Guineas at the start of 2015, there has been downward pressure on his odds since, even though he has not raced in public. Reports on his work under the tutelage of champion trainer Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle have been positive since the beginning of March, and he was a 3-1 shot by the end of it.

Then the Guineas trials began. Faydhan was beaten in the Free Handicap; Moheet and Nafaqa were beaten in the Craven Stakes; Ivawood and Belardo and Estidhkaar and Flaming Spear were beaten in the Greenham. Gleneagles’ Guineas odds were compressed again as he stood, nonplussed, in his box. He is as short as 7-4 with some bookmakers now.

It is interesting that his trainer’s son, Joseph, who rode Gleneagles to all his five victories last season, compared him to the six-time G1 winner, Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up and champion U.S. sire Giant’s Causeway in a recent interview with the Racing Post. “He looked like possibly the best juvenile around last season,” Joseph said. “I’m really excited about him. He’d remind you of Giant’s Causeway in an awful lot of ways.”

The comparison is understandable. Gleneagles is by Galileo out of You’resothrilling, the G2 Cherry Hinton Stakes winner by Storm Cat out of Mariah’s Storm, which makes her a full-sister to Giant’s Causeway.

“We bought Mariah’s Storm at Keeneland in 1996,” recalled David O’Loughlin, director of sales at Coolmore Stud. “We paid $2.6 million for her, in foal to Storm Cat. You always hope, but we could never have expected that her foal would turn out to be the horse that he turned out to be.”

Mariah’s Storm herself was tough. She fractured her cannon bone in 1993, but returned to the track in 1994 to land the Arlington Heights Oaks and the Arlington Matron, winning 10 times in total, including six times at graded level. She has obviously passed on her toughness to her offspring.

Winner of all three races that he contested as a juvenile, Giant’s Causeway ran 10 times as a 3-year-old. He won six times and finished second four times. Nine of those 10 races were at G1 level, and he was never out of the first two. He won the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Eclipse Stakes, the Sussex Stakes, the Juddmonte International, and the Irish Champion Stakes, and none of them by more than three parts of a length. He was tough, but he only just did as much as he needed to do.

“He was lazy all right,” O’Loughlin said. “But he was hardy. That was what made him the racehorse that he was. He demonstrated that in all his races, especially in the Eclipse at Sandown, when he got back up to beat Kalanisi by a head. That was some performance.”

Giant’s Causeway stood his first season as a stallion at Coolmore Stud in Ireland, but then moved to Ashford Stud, Coolmore’s base in Kentucky.

“Montjeu was here [at Coolmore in Ireland] as well at the time,” O’Loughlin said, “and Galileo won the Derby in 2001, so he was coming here. Giant’s Causeway had had a lot of interest from American breeders even when he was in Ireland, so it made sense to let him go to America. It was good to strengthen the team in America as well.”

Even that one season spent in Ireland was hugely significant. Shamardal was a member of that first Giant’s Causeway crop. He won the G2 Vintage Stakes and the G1 Dewhurst Stakes as a juvenile, then landed the French Guineas, the French Derby, and the St James’s Palace Stakes as a 3-year-old.  

The unbeaten 2,000 Guineas winner Footstepsinthesand was also a member of that first crop, as were G1 Coronation Stakes winner Maids Causeway and G1 Prix de l’Opera runner-up Mona Lisa.

Since moving to America, “The Iron Horse” has gone from strength to strength, a multiple champion sire and responsible for a plethora of G1 winners and top-class performers, including the exciting Carpe Diem, G1 Blue Grass Stakes winner at Keeneland two weeks ago and high in the betting for the Kentucky Derby.

“I can see the similarities,” O’Loughlin said. “Gleneagles looks tough. Of course, he has a long way to go if he is to even get close to Giant’s Causeway, but he seems to have the same tenacity. He’s a battler.”

It is a family of battlers. Gleneagles’ dam, Giant’s Causeway’s sister, battled on well to win that Cherry Hinton Stakes. Her daughter, Gleneagles’ full-sister Marvellous, showed her tenacity when she landed the Irish 1,000 Guineas on soft ground last year. Incidentally, You’resothrilling also has a filly foal on the ground and a yearling colt, both, like Gleneagles and Marvellous, by Galileo, and she has a 2-year-old filly also by Galileo who is already named: Coolmore. She has a champion’s name, and that’s a good start in life.

Interestingly, Giant’s Causeway did not win the 2,000 Guineas as a 3-year-old in 2000. He won his prep race, the G3 Gladness Stakes over seven furlongs at the Curragh that April, but he could only finish second to King’s Best in the Guineas at Newmarket in May, and he was beaten a neck by Bachir in the Irish 2,000 Guineas three weeks later. Then he rattled off those five G1s on the spin.  

And he rounded off a magnificent career on the track with a pulsating run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, where he was beaten a neck by Tiznow on his only run on dirt. He was one of the most prolific 3-year-olds in Europe in the modern era.

Gleneagles will go to Newmarket on Saturday without a prep run, but you get the feeling that Team Coolmore/Ballydoyle are happy with his preparations thus far. Ask David O’Loughlin how he thinks he will do, and he is unequivocal:

“I think he’ll go very close.”

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