Welcome to 2022 Kentucky Derby Prospect Snapshots, where we’ll take a look each week at a recent winner on the Triple Crown trail, usually from the Road to the Kentucky Derby schedule from which the race horses earn points toward qualifying.
This week, we’ll take a closer look at Classic Causeway, winner of the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 12 at Tampa Bay Downs. He earned 10 points toward qualifying for the 2022 Kentucky Derby with that win as the 8-5 favorite, and with 16 total points Classic Causeway moved into first on the latest Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
Racing Résumé: Classic Causeway entered his 3-year-old season with an established level of class yet something left to prove. He followed a dominant debut win in September 2021 at Saratoga Race Course with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, won by highly regarded Rattle N Roll; and next a second-place finish to Smile Happy in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs.
Both Smile Happy and Rattle N Roll have consistently been regarded as two of the top 2022 Kentucky Derby contenders in the Derby Future Wager, so there was increased interest in Classic Causeway’s comeback as he was the first of the three to return to competition.
In the Sam F. Davis, the chestnut Giant’s Causeway colt streaked to the front out of the starting gate, faced pressure from Little Vic on his outside, and dueled through a half-mile in :46.67 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:11.51 while leading for most of the early going. He put away Little Vic in early stretch and pulled away to a comfortable 3 ¾-length win with a final sixteenth of a mile in an eye-catching 5.98 seconds, which is impressive considering the fact that he was pressured while setting a solid pace. The four runners nearest to him after the opening quarter-mile faded to seventh, ninth, 10th, and last of 12, while beaten anywhere from 8 ½ to 33 lengths.
Speed Figures: Equibase Speed Figures paint a pattern of steady progress for Classic Causeway with incremental improvement in each of his four starts from an 89 in his debut to a 104 for the Sam F. Davis victory. His Beyer Speed Figures are significantly less linear – 90-73-84-88 – but the 88 for the Sam F. Davis looks like a promising season debut. Classic Causeway is not at the head of the class from a speed-figure perspective, but he’s within range and capable of winning his next start in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 if he takes just a small step forward in his second start of the year.
Running Style: Classic Causeway broke exceptionally well from the starting gate in the Sam F. Davis and set the pace for the third time in four starts. He did not get rank when Little Vic came to challenge, but he did dig in and pin his ears back. He seemed more relaxed after he pushed his neck back in front.
Classic Causeway has a high cruising speed that he uses to his advantage for tactical position and he should be formidable whether setting, pressing, or stalking the pace, although I think he’s probably at his best setting the pace or racing just in behind the leader.
Connections: Classic Causeway was bred in Kentucky by his owners, Patrick O’Keefe of Kentucky West Racing and Clarke Cooper, and is trained by Australia native Brian Lynch, who is best known as the trainer of 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Oscar Performance and multiple Grade 1 winner Heart to Heart.
Irad Ortiz Jr. rode Classic Causeway for the first time in the Sam F. Davis. The three-time Eclipse Award winner as outstanding jockey earned his lone victory in a U.S. Triple Crown race to date in the 2016 Belmont Stakes aboard Creator.
Pedigree Notes: Classic Causeway is from the last of 18 crops sired by the late Giant’s Causeway, the 2000 European Horse of the Year who led the North American general sire list on multiple occasions. In 2019, Bricks and Mortar, by Giant’s Causeway, won the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year.
Classic Causeway’s dam (mother) is multiple stakes-winning sprinter Private World, by 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch. His grandam (maternal grandmother), Rita Rucker, by Dmitri, was a four-time stakes winner at distances ranging from five-eighths of a mile to one mile.
Derby Potential: When White Abarrio won the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park Feb. 5, I was even more interested in seeing Classic Causeway’s first start of 2022 given the Holy Bull winner was third behind Smile Happy in the Kentucky Jockey Club. It looks like that could turn out to be the key race from the 2021 2-year-old season, perhaps even more significant than the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
Classic Causeway was dominant in his season debut in the Sam F. Davis, setting a fast and pressure pace and still finishing strongly in an impressive victory. The speed figures are competitive and indicate with just a little improvement, Classic Causeway has what it takes to be a serious 3-year-old on the 2022 Kentucky Derby trail. I feel confident saying he’s a legitimate prospect.