We hear plenty about Galileo (Ire), and rightly so. He is the stallion of our generation whose influence will be discussed by pedigree aficionados for decades, if not centuries, to come. For as much as I’m glad to be alive and writing about breeding under his reign, I’ve long harboured a preference for Galileo’s erstwhile stablemate Montjeu (Ire), who was lost to us almost five years ago.
— Emma Berry / Thoroughbred Daily News

Montjeu came along at the right time for me. My early years as a racing fan were spent swaddled in thermals and tweed, sinking into a deep despair after the Whitbread meeting at the prospect of a summer of boring Flat racing while my beloved jumpers enjoyed their holidays. A job at Pacemaker set the tide turning slowly. Being whacked over the head with a Timeform annual by the magazine's editor Julian Muscat every time I mentioned the name Istabraq (Ire) ensured that I swiftly acknowledged the error of my ways. Istabraq may have been another regally bred son of Sadler's Wells, but to the purist Muscat the multiple Champion Hurdler was merely a “failed Flat horse.”

Montjeu - King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes

Then along came Montjeu, the bad boy from France who I knew I shouldn't fall for but couldn't help doing so anyway. Never mind his two Classics and his Arc victory, Montjeu's day of days came at Ascot, in the G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes of 2000. The Racing Post's in-running comments of that race, in which he beat Fantastic Light by a length and three-quarters, end with, “Cruised into lead over 1f out, soon clear, not extended and most impressive.”

Such faultless behaviour where it mattered most no doubt atoned for the fact that some 20 minutes earlier Montjeu, displaying the diva-like tendencies of a catwalk model, had refused to enter the parade ring until one of the two handlers with him was legged aboard and he was ridden in. His hauteur had me hooked.

Fast-forward five years to a Classic June of unforgettable importance for this far from impartial witness. At Epsom, Motivator (GB) strode home five lengths clear of his paternal half-brother Walk In The Park (Ire) to give Montjeu exactly the first-crop boost his team back at Coolmore must have longed for. And more was to come three weeks later when he sired another Derby quinella, this time at the Curragh, with Hurricane Run (Ire) and Scorpion (Ire) charging over the line half a length apart and four lengths in front of Shalapour (Ire). Also trained in France for Michael Tabor, though by Andre Fabre instead of Montjeu's trainer John Hammond, Hurricane Run would go on to emulate his father by adding the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe to his tally of four Group 1 wins. His premature death this week at the age of just 14 is a cruel blow to his breeder, Gestüt Ammerland, where he had returned to stand in 2013.

Camelot - QIPCO 2000 Guineas

The years since Montjeu's own premature death haven't dimmed my admiration for his enigmatic brilliance. In fact, a little over a month after his demise it seemed we'd been sent some form of consolation in his son Camelot (GB), who continued his unbeaten juvenile season by becoming Montjeu's first Group 1 winner at a mile in the 2,000 Guineas.

It's probably time to let it go but I still haven't quite come to terms with Camelot's narrow defeat by Encke in the St Leger, robbing us of perhaps the last chance we'll ever have to see a Triple Crown winner in Britain. That bitter disappointment for the horse who became Montjeu's fourth and final Epsom Derby winner in the space of eight years could yet be assuaged if Camelot can pick up the baton laid down by his father and become a Classic sire in his own right. At this stage we have only the physical appearance of his young stock as evidence of his prowess but far more experienced judges than this one agree that the early signs are good.

In the meantime, it would be remiss not to highlight the promising start made by another of Montjeu's high-class sons, Jukebox Jury (Ire), who may well soon offer some consolation to German breeders for the loss of Hurricane Run. From his base at Gestüt Etzean, the lovely 10-year-old grey, whose nine wins include his dead-heat with Duncan (GB) in the G1 Irish St Leger, has flown under the radar with his first runners this year. It is worth noting, however, that he has sired 11 winners from his 29 runners - at a thoroughly respectable strike-rate of 38% - predominantly in Germany where the juvenile programme is nowhere near as expansive as in Britain and Ireland.

Appropriately, Jukebox Jury's sole winner in Britain, Dominating {Ger}), is trained by his sire's former trainer Mark Johnston and runs in the colours of his former owner, Alan Spence. It is perhaps no much of a surprise to find that his dam, the German Oaks runner-up Dominante (Ger), is by Monsun (Ger), and his pedigree certainly gives every reason to hope that there will be more to come from Dominating next year.

Whether dominating will be a word that can be applied to Camelot as he is judged among the freshman sires of 2017 remains to be seen, but if there is any horse named to become a legend in the fullness of time then surely it has to be him.

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News

Comment