Giant's on standby after Montjeu blow

There were Group One races across the Continent yesterday, yet the thoughts of many punters were with a horse who stayed at home. John Hammond, the trainer of Montjeu, reported that the colt had had a "training setback'', and may miss his planned engagement in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.

There were Group One races across the Continent yesterday, yet the thoughts of many punters were with a horse who stayed at home. John Hammond, the trainer of Montjeu, reported that the colt had had a "training setback'', and may miss his planned engagement in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.

Though the problem is not believed to be serious, the slightest doubt over the favourite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe less than a month before the race itself is something his army of supporters could do without.

Hammond did not want to elaborate on the nature of the setback, though yesterday evening he said that Montjeu "is now only a possible runner on Saturday''. There were also indications from Coolmore Stud, the headquarters of the Michael Tabor/John Magnier partnership, that Giant's Causeway, the winner of five Group Ones in a row, will replace Montjeu as their representative at Leopardstown.

The news prompted the Irish bookmaker Cashman's to install Giant's Causeway as their 4-6 favourite for the race, ahead of Best Of The Bests on 11-4 and Greek Dance on 7-1. However, a Coolmore spokes-man expressed concern that Giant's Causeway has been given a brief "holiday'' since his latest win in the International Stakes at York, and may want for peak fitness as a result.

"The plan with Giant's Causeway was to go to Ascot for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, so we gave the horse the week off,'' the spokesman said. "Since York he's missed three work mornings and I'd be a little worried that the rest might have taken the edge off his match fitness. If it was any other horse you'd say he probably wouldn't be ready for Leopardstown, but we'd like to have a go if possible.''

If Montjeu's setback is fairly minor, he could prepare for the Arc in the Prix Foy at Longchamp on Sunday, but otherwise Hammond's options are fairly limited. It would certainly ease his backers' concerns, however, if they could see Montjeu in the flesh sometime before 1 October in the Bois de Boulogne.

Montjeu is a great champion, but without him the Arc would be wide open, a thought which will have crossed many minds after the Grosser Pries von Baden at Baden-Baden yesterday. Samum, the winner of the race, would certainly be worth considering, even at the 10-1 (from 25-1) offered by Coral following his two-and-a-half length defeat of Catella and Fruits Of Love, with Daliapour and Holding Court, previous Group One winners both, only fourth and fifth.

No German-trained horse has won the Arc since Star Appeal in 1975 at odds of 119-1, but Samum, who started favourite at 8-5, may represent as good a chance as they have had in the 25 years since. He is now unbeaten in six races, including the Deutsches Derby, which he won by five lengths, and is particularly at home on the soft ground which usually prevails at Longchamp in October.

"He is an exceptional colt, probably the best I've ever had,'' Andreas Schutz, Samum's trainer, said. "Already before the Derby we thought very highly of him. We then learned that he was special and now everyone else knows it too.''

Holding Court, the Newmarket-trained French Derby winner, was disappointing after taking time to find his stride and then running wide around Baden-Baden's left-handed turns. Fruits Of Love, though, put up a fine display on ground far softer than he likes, and now goes to the Canadian International at Woodbine.

The retirement of Sendawar shortly before the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp yesterday took a little of the gleam off the prize as far as purists were concerned. Amanda Perrett, though, was not too concerned, as Indian Lodge, an 11-1 chance, took advantage to provide her first success at Group One level. "It's a case of the softer the better for him,'' Perrett said. "We made a mistake running him at Ascot last time, but he might go back there for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes if the ground is right.''

The afternoon's third Group One, the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh, saw a performance of immense promise from Sequoyah, who started favourite at 9-4. Aidan O'Brien's filly quickened impressively to beat Hotelgenie Dot Com, trained by Mick Channon, and is a 20-1 chance from 40-1 with William Hill for next year's 1,000 Guineas.

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