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April 21, 2020
Mr. Big News and the Legacy of Giant’s Causeway

The “big news” of the past racing weekend, Saturday, April 11, in particular, was that a 46-1 shot, Mr. Big News, won the Oaklawn S. and secured a guaranteed place in the Arkansas Derby and in the Preakness S., whenever that may be held. Trained by Bret Calhoun and ridden by Gabriel Saez, Mr. Big News has brought his sire, the late, great Giant’s Causeway, very near the magic number of having sired 200 stakes winners.

Though Giant’s Causeway died in April, 2018, unable to complete his final breeding season at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in the Bluegrass, his genetic force is still felt in the thoroughbred industry: 2019 Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar is proof of this, as is Mr. Big News. And this is before a further inspection of Giant’s Causeway’s sons’ and daughters’ achievements on April 11 leads one to count him as one of the most influential sires of the 20th and 21st centuries.

I am prejudiced, because the first time I laid eyes on the stallion, I fell in love. He was a beautiful, compact, perfectly conformed chestnut, both elegant and masculine, with that look of eagles. He dared you not to love him. A very successful trainer friend called him, “perfection. You can’t ask any more of a horse than that.” I visited him every year thereafter at Ashford’s annual open house for breeders, and his daunting beauty never diminished. I was lucky enough to breed clients’ mares to him twice, getting two outstanding foals. He will always be one of my all-time favorites.

Mr. Big News demonstrates Giant’s Causeway’s ability to sire stakes winners with anomalous crosses, as he is out of the Galileo mare Unappeased. Through Giant’s Causeway’s entire stud career, only seven Galileo mares have been bred to him, though multi-millionaire Eishin Apollon was out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. However, we must look to Galileo’s dam, Urban Sea, by Miswaki, to cement the possibilities in this mating, as Giant’s Causeway loved mares with Miswaki in their pedigrees: Canadian Champion Irish Mission, millionaire My Typhoon, and others were the results of such matings.

He also appreciated inbreeding to Northern Dancer, apparent in approximately half of his graded stakes winning runners. We mustn’t disregard the double breeding of both Northern Dancer and Halo, offering four doses, therefore, of Almahmoud through her daughters Natalma and Cosmah.

The real key to this pedigree, however, is the bringing together, top and bottom, of the full sisters Glorious Song, through her stellar son Rahy, and Angelic Song, the dam of Unappeased (hence the coveted zigzag), both by Halo and out of the Blue Hen Ballade (1972), offering massive doses of Mahmoud and his family, La Troienne, and Swaps (for whom Giant’s Causeway clearly has an affinity—his full sister will make a cameo later). Ballade was the dam of Devil’s Bag by Halo, a full brother to the sisters offered here, Saint Ballado, and Imperial Falcon.

The fact that this regally-bred colt only fetched $95,000 as a yearling perhaps points to the weakness of the Fasig Tipton October Yearling Sale at which he was offered, rather than to his quality, because he appears to be a big, strong serious runner. Why would a January 29 foal be offered in this sale in the first place? I can only imagine that he was small as a yearling, or that health issues kept him out of the more prestigious, earlier sales.

Given his pedigree, one of the commentators on TVG suggested that Bret Calhoun should transfer this colt to the turf as soon as possible. After the race, this commentator said, “shows what I know.” Devil’s Bag, from this family, was a killer on dirt. This colt’s Galileo dam may add stamina, and perhaps, eventually turf ability, but for now, Mr. Big News looks like a real Triple Crown contender and a bargain for Calhoun and Allied Racing Stable.

In that same hour that Mr. Big News cemented his place on the Triple Crown Trail, in the twelfth at Gulfstream, a $75,000 optional claimer, another Giant’s Causeway offspring, the four-year-old filly Princess Causeway, won in perhaps the most stunning race of the day. Dead last all the way around, she closed into very fast fractions down the stretch to dominate with a thrilling turn of foot. She has five wins from eleven starts, and has earned over $314,000 for Winchester Place Thoroughbreds and trainer Ian Wilkes, and seems certain to be a candidate for a stakes race in the near future. Unlike the anomalous nick demonstrated by Mr. Big News, Princess Causeway is a much more typically pedigreed offspring of Giant’s Causeway, being out of the A.P. Indy mare A.P. Investment, who was out of the Gone West mare Clear in the West.

Another generation back is the Allan Paulson-bred Danka, by Strawberry Road out of the Blushing Groom mare Paloma Blanca, offering the powerful cross of Nijinsky II and Blushing Groom, and calling out to the Blushing Groom, on the zig zag, through Rahy on the top side. Sires from the Storm Cat line love the addition of Nijinsky II to any pedigree, as Nijinsky II is a close genetic relative of Storm Bird, and the two complement each other beautifully.

While considering Princess Causeway, having a look at the pedigree of Grade One winner Imagining is essential. The Phipps-bred was by Giant’s Causeway, out of the A.P. Indy mare and G2 winner Daydreaming, with a second dam by Northern Dancer, with tons of La Troienne, as only the Phipps stable could do, in the dams’ side. What Calumet Farm did in breeding Princess Causeway is, though, just as strong. Giant’s Causeway’s best progeny are littered with inbreeding to Secretariat and his dam Somethingroyal, and this pedigree offers Secretariat 4 x 4 x 5, and Somethingroyal 5 x 5 x 6, through three of the most influential Blue Hen Secretariat mares in the stud book: Terlingua, Weekend Surprise, and Secrettame.

The appearance of Chieftain (1961) via the dam of Mariah’s Storm, Immense, in Giant’s Causeway’s pedigree only heightens the effect, as Chieftain was by Bold Ruler, like Secretariat, out of the Blue Hen Pocahontas, whose dam, How, was by Princequillo, just like Somethingroyal. As in Mr. Big News, there is a build-up of Hail to Reason, always a good thing, through various sources this time, such as Halo, Roberto, Seattle Slew’s granddam, Reason to Earn, and Hail to Reason’s close genetic relative, My Babu, through A.P. Indy. We must also mention a bit of Graustark, for stamina, in her tail female line.

But there’s more Giant’s Causeway news. The winner of the Oaklawn Mile, an hour earlier than the Oaklawn S., was the seven-year-old Tom’s D’Etat, a millionaire whose career has been wisely guided by Al Stall Jr., through 17 starts, with ten wins, two seconds, and one third. How does this son of Smart Strike fit into my paean to Giant’s Causeway? Because his dam, Julia Tuttle, is by Giant’s Causeway, whose career as a sire of sires is more than equaled by his career as a broodmare sire: he is currently the leading broodmare sire worldwide, and is the broodmare sire of G1 star Mucho Gusto.

In Tom’s D’Etat we see a collection of Turn-to/Hail to Reason blood just as we did in Mr. Big News and Princess Causeway, as Smart Strike’s Blue Hen Dam, Classy ‘n Smart, was a granddaughter of Turn-to. This twins with the Hail to Reason/Turn-to in Giant’s Causeway through Halo and Roberto, and as in Princess Causeway, we see another dose of Blushing Groom in Julia Tuttle’s dams’ side.

Further examination of Classy ‘n Smart’s pedigree, however, reveals that her granddam, Classy Quillo, was by Outing Class, whose dam was Track Medal. Remember the powerful dose of Swaps, in the sixth position, in Mr. Big News, tail female? In the sixth position in Tom’s D’Etat’s pedigree, in his dams’ side, is Track Medal, the full sister to Swaps. And Classy ‘n’ Smart’s third dam is Quillopoly, yet another powerful Princequillo mare, like Somethingroyal and How. As usual, ancient history rears its head, and Giant’s Causeway’s affinity for Swaps/Track Medal and Princequillo mares cannot be denied.

The death of Giant’s Causeway in 2018 was painful, as he was clearly one of the greats. In Europe, his son Shamardal is a leading sire (with extra Halo in his dams’ side), so his legacy lives on. But I sincerely hope this is not the last paean to the handsome chestnut I will write. On April 11, in one hour’s time, Giant’s Causeway ruled the world once again.

-- Roberta Smoodin

559.884.2859 2019 Fee: $2,000 Live Foal. Nominated to the Breeders Cup. Race record - At 2, a maiden allowance race at Hollywood Park. At 3 Affirmed H. (GIII), Baldwin S. (GIII), an allowance race at Santa Anita Park, 2nd La Puente S. 3rd Hollywood Turf Express H. (GIII), Lazaro Barrera Memorial S. (GIII). At 4 Breeders Cup Turf Sprint, Joe Hernandez S., 2nd Mervyn LeRoy H. (GII), Berkeley S. (GIII). At 5 Daytona H. (GIII). Visit Website
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