O’Keefe bred Rita Rucker to 1995 Kentucky Derby hero Thunder Gulch, who also garnered the Belmont S. (G1) and Travers (G1) during his championship campaign. The product of their union, Private World, showed something of her sire’s talent and her dam’s determination, but her career was limited to just six starts. She won her first three as a juvenile, including the 2005 Anoakia S. and Moccasin S.
Rita Rucker’s other offspring had more hard-luck stories than success. Bred to Thunder Gulch’s Hall of Fame son Point Given – the 2001 Preakness (G1), Belmont, and Travers star – she produced Point Encounter, whose sharp debut victory at Santa Anita suggested he could be special. Unfortunately, that ended up being his one and only racetrack appearance, due to injury. Point Encounter’s younger brother, Point Defiance, sparked early hopes, but never made it to the races.
Meanwhile, Private World was also living the broodmare life without much fanfare from her first six foals, three of whom managed to win. At the age of 13, Private World visited Giant’s Causeway. Their daughter, named Rockie Causeway, was bred in partnership with Cooper, who now came on board with O’Keefe.
Rockie Causeway was knocking on the door in ultra-competitive maidens on the Southern California turf in 2020, and she broke through at Santa Anita on Feb. 19, 2021. Again, though, the promise of better things to come was put on hold after she was badly hampered in an allowance. Rockie Causeway is embarking on the comeback trail, having just returned to the worktab at Santa Anita on Mar. 4. While she’s been away, her younger brother has made the family famous on the Derby trail.
Private World returned to Giant’s Causeway in the spring of 2018 and conceived one of his last foals. She delivered their 133-pound colt on the night of Feb. 22, 2019, at 10:30 p.m. in the Bluegrass of Kentucky.
Ashford’s Adrian Mansergh-Wallace recalled that Classic Causeway was a fine foal.
#TBT it’s been fun watching this guy grow up over the last couple years! Best of luck to Margaux Starting & Training Grad CLASSIC CAUSEWAY in the G3 Sam F. Davis @TampaBayDownsFL this weekend!@BLynchRacing pic.twitter.com/9PxGlXzA1u— Margaux Farm (@MargauxFarm) February 10, 2022
Classic Causeway graduated to Lynch’s barn at Churchill Downs, where he clocked his first official work, a three-furlong breeze in :37.40, on June 18, 2021. Promoted to the trainer’s string at Saratoga, he made a dazzling Spa debut on the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) undercard. Classic Causeway was ignored at 13.60-1 in the seven-furlong maiden, but rolled on the front end to a 6 1/2-length victory.
Favored next time in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, Classic Causeway tried to go wire-to-wire again. Post 13, however, forced him to expend more energy than helpful, especially in his first try at two turns and at a higher level. Classic Causeway tired to third behind Rattle N Roll, a solid effort in the circumstances. Then he drew the rail in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), switched to stalking the pace, and finished a better second to Smile Happy.
Classic Causeway took a substantial step forward in his sophomore bow, withstanding pace pressure to draw off in style in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. Now he’ll be the favorite once more in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2). Among his rivals is another Giant’s Causeway bequest, Giant Game. What are the odds that two of his last three sons would end up confronting each other on the Road to the Kentucky Derby?
If Classic Causeway can wear the roses on the first Saturday in May, his name would prove prophetic. The late, great “Iron Horse” would receive a poignant tribute by coming up with a first U.S. classic winner, on a resume laden with other major prizes the world over. A Classic Causeway, indeed.
Photo of a one-day old Classic Causeway courtesy of Ashford Stud
Very exciting to see Classic Causeway win the Gr.2 Tampa Bay Derby last night! He’s been practising his explosive gate speed since he was a yearling at Ashford Stud