At 15, Giant’s Causeway has reached the sort of age when stallions – even the most successful of them – sometimes start to be taken for granted by breeders and buyers, two groups always on the lookout for something new. This explains why his fee has dwindled more than most during the recent belt-tightening years, falling from $300,000 in 2006 all the way down to $85,000 in each of the last two years.

Fortunately the so-called Iron Horse is doing his best to ensure that no-one forgets him in a hurry. On October 1 he headed the Blood-Horse’s table of leading sires with earnings just short of $8,000,000. Although he is being hard pressed by Speightstown and Empire Maker, the Ashford Stud stalwart clearly has reasonable prospects of adding a third championship to those he achieved in 2009 and 2010. His fine form has also translated into some good prices at the American yearling sales, with colts selling for $750,000, $650,000 and $550,000.

Giant’s Causeway owes his success partly to the large number of mares he usually covers – 217 in 2010 and 198 in 2012 – but also to his ability to pass on the durability which earned him his nickname. His stakes winners in 2012 feature horses of every age from two to seven and the longevity of his progeny’s careers contributes to the numerical advantage that Giant’s Causeway currently enjoys over his rivals. He had had 300 northern hemisphere runners by October 1, the next-most prolific among the top 20 American stallions being Lion Heart (270), Songandaprayer (267), Elusive Quality (266), Grand Slam (256) and Malibu Moon (251).

The main flaw in Giant’s Causeway’s record in 2012 is that he lacks a northern hemisphere Group/Grade 1 winner among his eight Group/Graded winners. Indeed, he has yet to be represented by a top-flight winner from his 2008 crop and there is only one – the Norfolk Stakes winner and Preakness Stakes third Creative Cause – in his 2009 crop. That could well change, though, as a good number of his major winners didn’t achieve their first Group/Grade 1 success until after the age of three. Aragorn, Eishin Apollon, Giant Oak and Red Giant all did so at four, with Carriage Trail, Frost Giant, Heatseeker, My Typhoon and Swift Temper following their example at five and Rite Of Passage at six.

Several of Giant’s Causeway’s stallion sons have also been in the news during 2012. Inevitably, the ones making the most impact in Europe are Shamardal and Footstepsinthesand, a pair of Classic winners from Giant’s Causeway’s one and only Irish crop. As you will see detailed in my notes on Amaron in this month’s Data Book, Shamardal has been making a much bigger impact on the continent than on the home front. Thanks to Crackerjack King, Sagawara and Amaron he has had three Group 1 winners this year, boosting his northern hemisphere total to six from his first three crops.

Footstepsinthesand has been plying his trade at much lower fees than Shamardal in recent seasons but he too has been having a good season

His fifth crop, which reaches the racecourse next year, should be well worth watching, as it was conceived after some eye-catching performances from members of his first Australian and Irish crops. It is his 2012 crop, though, which should establish his exact merit, as it was sired at the increased fee of €50,000, following the achievements of Lope De Vega, Casamento and a strong team of 2010 Group winners.

Footstepsinthesand has been plying his trade at much lower fees than Shamardal in recent seasons but he too has been having a good season. September saw Chachamaidee provide him with his first Group 1 success in a controversial Matriarch Stakes and the tough Barefoot Lady took the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes.

I will be keeping a close watch on his 2011 crop, as his first-season results with the likes of Sent From Heaven, Steinbeck and Chachamaidee resulted in a spike of interest in 2010. He covered 178 mares that year and it is a safe bet that quite a few of them were daughters of Danehill, the broodmare sire of the three good performers just mentioned.

First Samurai, a Grade 1 winner from Giant’s Causeway’s first American crop, is responsible for California’s leading juvenile filly Executiveprivilege. Unbeaten in five starts, this filly has recorded Grade 1 successes in the Del Mar Futurity and the Chandelier Stakes (formerly the Oak Leaf Stakes) to establish herself as the clear favourite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita. There has also been a two-year-old stakes winner from the first crop by the New York-based Frost Giant.

This run of success puts the spotlight on Intense Focus, the 2008 Dewhurst Stakes winner who will be the next son of Giant’s Causeway to have runners in Europe. Intense Focus’s pedigree is made all the more interesting by the fact that his dam, the Group-winning Daneleta, is bred on the same Danehill/Kahyasi cross as Dansili, Banks Hill, Intercontinental, Cacique and Champs Elysees. There were some respected judges among the buyers of his yearlings at the sales, including Tim Easterby, Clive Cox and David Redvers. With plenty of support from Jim Bolger, as well as from Harry Dobson and Ballylinch Stud, Intense Focus could easily be a dark horse among next year’s freshman sires.

On a High across three continents
Few stallions enjoyed a hotter streak in September than High Chaparral. His success spanned three continents, with Toronado setting the ball rolling when remaining unbeaten in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes in England. Then Wigmore Hall repeated his 2011 success in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes in Canada, and finally his 2010 Australian Derby winner Shoot Out landed his fourth Group 1 success in the George Main Stakes.

For good measure there was also a Group 3 success by his New Zealand-bred three-year-old Dundeel, who races in Australia as It’s A Dundeel, and there were Group-placed efforts by Lucky Chappy, High Jinx, Araldo and Branderburgo. Of course High Chaparral also had a very rewarding first half of the season, thanks to So You Think.

The triumphs of Galileo and Montjeu inevitably drew attention away from their younger stud companion

The son of Sadler’s Wells is clearly proving as effective as a stallion as he was during the days when he won five Group 1 races on the track. He has done well to prove his talent as a stallion, as he initially faced a stiffer task than might have been anticipated for a horse of his high achievements.

High Chaparral was in direct competition with Sadler’s Wells, Montjeu and Galileo when he retired to Coolmore, at a time when there was still some prejudice against Sadler’s Wells as a sire of sires. He began at a fee of €35,000 in 2004, which was €5,000 more than Montjeu’s fee and €5,000 less than Galileo’s. The fees for Montjeu and Galileo subsequently sky-rocketed on the strength of their outstanding success, and their triumphs inevitably drew attention away from their younger stud companion.

As a result his fee fell by €5,000 every single season until it reached only €10,000 in 2009 in his sixth season. It is fascinating to look through the mares which visited him in 2009. Among them were numerous mares with National Hunt backgrounds, such as Like-A-Butterfly and Solerina.

His book also included daughters of such as Classic Cliche, Executive Perk, Over The River, Bob Back, Broken Hearted, Be My Native, Toulon, Roselier, Mandalus, Orchestra, Phardante, Topanoora, Treasure Hunter, Un Desperado and Husyan. This long list suggests that High Chaparral was in danger of being transferred to Coolmore’s National Hunt division. Fortunately he was rescued from such a fate by a very rewarding 2009 season both in Europe and Australia.

His European team featured the Group winners Above Average, Golden Sword, Joanna, Magadan and The Miniver Rose, with High Chaparral’s Classic potential being highlighted by Golden Sword’s second in the Irish Derby and High Heeled’s third in the Oaks. His Australian runners, headed by the New Zealand-breds So You Think and Monaco Consul, also shone.

The recovery has continued, to the extent that High Chaparral has been priced at €25,000 in each of the last two seasons. It seems, though, that he is still held in higher regard in Australasia. High Chaparral is currently standing his third season at Coolmore Australia, where his fee is AUS$77,000 (roughly £49,000).
In view of the large number of jumping mares that High Chaparral covered in 2009, it is noteworthy that he has added Toronado to a list of talented two-year-olds, which also features Wrote, Lady Darshaan, Joanna, Serienhoehe and Lady Lupus.

High Chaparral received a bit of help in siring a two-year-old as talented as Toronado. The colt’s dam Wana Doo won over a mile at two in France and is by Grand Slam, a dual Grade 1 winner at two in the USA.

Toronado, described by trainer Richard Hannon as a “beautiful horse”, won’t be seen again until 2013. He bypassed the Racing Post Trophy, although he certainly had the pedigree for the race, which was won both by High Chaparral and by Wana Doo’s half-brother Casamento. His fourth dam, Regal Lady, was a half-sister to Vaguely Noble, a runaway winner of the same race (then the Observer Gold Cup).