The iron horse steams over his rivals again

Glorious Goodwood: Giant's Causeway demonstrates his incredible toughness to add the Sussex Stakes to an impressive collection of prizes
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The Independent Online

The argument about which is the best horse this season may rage on, but the debate about which is the hardest was concluded here at the foot of Trundle Hill yesterday.

The argument about which is the best horse this season may rage on, but the debate about which is the hardest was concluded here at the foot of Trundle Hill yesterday.

It was reassuring to see Giant's Causeway steaming and sweating after the Sussex Stakes otherwise you might imagine he was constructed of sheet metal. It was his ninth race, his sixth Group One contest and fourth victory at the highest level. You had to marvel at him. You had to weep for his rivals. The £160,000 first prize was just a few more gold coins for Michael Tabor, who owns Giant's Causeway in partnership with Sue Magnier, to splash into his personal treasure chest. And while Tabor might appreciate the brilliance of his King George winner, Montjeu, his true admiration is for the iron horse. "He really is so tough," the owner said. "He just loves his racing and a battle. He doesn't know the meaning of defeat.

"This horse is so brave and he has now got confidence in his own ability. He thrives on racing and has simply gone on getting better and better."

It was an unusual composition for a race. Half the 10-strong field were chestnuts and the most leisurely of those was Medicean, who was close to comatose in the parade ring. Giant's Causeway too was rather laid-back until Michael Kinane was levered into his saddle. Then he recognised business time was approaching.

It was fortuitous that the Irishman was there at all. In the previous race he looked about to be scrambled in the stalls when his mount, Bonnard, pranced on to his hind legs and sent his partner shooting backwards. Kinane's flight was arrested by an alert stalls handler.

The contestant to cause a fluster before the Sussex Stakes was Valentino, who had to be blindfolded and then dragged to take his place in the race. When the action eventually got underway the pace was engineered by Aljabr, the previous year's winner, who was so smartly into his stride that Giant's Causeway's pace-maker, Manhattan, was never to get close to the lead.

Giant's Causeway lobbed along pleasingly on the rail, as if there was no possible peril, but then he could not see behind him. On the outside of the pursuing pack, Olivier Peslier was gathering Dansili for what looked an irrepressible challenge. The joint-favourites struck jointly for home, but every time the French colt appeared ready to sweep by he seemed to run into pain. Giant's Causeway kept seeing him and kept repelling him. At the end, he was actually going away as Dansili became increasingly sickened. The winning distance was three-quarters of a length, which is quite a margin in the Giant's Causeway catalogue.

"He has improved so much this season," Aidan O'Brien, the winner trainer, said. "After his first run, when he beat older horses over seven furlongs, he improved a bit and again after his second race [when runner-up in the 2,000 Guineas] but after his third race [when second in the Irish Guineas] he really started putting on weight and condition. Maybe it was my fault that he was beaten early on as he had not done as well at that stage as he has since.

"I don't think that the distance he runs over matters much to him, whether it is a mile or a mile and a quarter. He would be just as good over a mile and a half and I don't think it would be a problem if he went back to six or seven furlongs. He will never win very far and just do as much as he has to. He enjoys waiting for other horses to come to challenge him so he can see them off, like he did with Dansili. He's only as good as the horses he runs against, but maybe a bit better."

The conundrum which remains is how much Giant's Causeway is still hiding. There are not many against whom he can now be tested. Montjeu is in the family but Dubai Millennium is in the cross-hairs. There is no fear of the Godolphin horse or of the dirt on which the two may meet in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Giant's Causeway is a product of parents who made their name on dirt in the US and is no stranger to the surface at Ballydoyle. The prospect is a delight.

Godolphin looked to have a ready-made cadet when No Excuse Needed won the Lanson Vintage Stakes, but the post-race message was that he would not be joining the team. "He stays with Michael [Stoute]," Maktoum Al Maktoum, the winning owner, said. That was bonny news for the trainer, as the colt was put in as a 25-1 shot for the 2001 2,000 Guineas after his win from O'Brien's Bonnard. "He's a lovely balanced horse with a good temperament," Johnny Murtagh, the winning rider, said. "He could be anything."