Kinane taken on the cruise of a lifetime

When the seven contenders for Saturday's big prize at Ascot dipped into Swinley Bottom the race commentator gave excited emphasis to the position held by Montjeu, who was in second-to-last place with Michael Kinane motionless in the saddle.

When the seven contenders for Saturday's big prize at Ascot dipped into Swinley Bottom the race commentator gave excited emphasis to the position held by Montjeu, who was in second-to-last place with Michael Kinane motionless in the saddle.

Hearing this and thinking about Montjeu's capricious reluctance to participate in the preliminaries until coming under the calming hands of his head lad, some in a record audience exchanged quizzical glances.

What happened from there will live long in the memory of all who saw the 50th running of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on a sunny afternoon in Her Majesty's back garden.

On a royal occasion, the Queen and her mother in attendance, Montjeu's performance would be imperious. "Did your heart stop beating when the Aga Khan's pair (Raypour and Daliapour) put in their effort," Montjeu's owner, Michael Tabor, was asked. "It never stops beating," Tabor replied, "but no, I was never concerned."

Since last year's victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe there has not been a reason to suspect the colt's credentials and when Kinane brought him alongside the leaders early in the straight it was all over bar the shouting. Cruising effortlessly under Kinane's quiet touch, Montjeu won as he liked with Fantastic Light in vain pursuit.

In common with all great sports performers, Montjeu makes no demands upon the audience. It is not necessary to understand the complexities of breeding and preparation. He is quite simply there for all to see. "He's exceptional," Kinane said when coming under interrogation, first in the unsaddling enclosure then in a small room under the grandstand where he sat alongside the colt's trainer John Hammond.

Much the same could be said about Kinane, who returned to race-riding only last week after an injury that might have been more troublesome but for treatment by the Manchester United physios arranged by his friend Sir Alex Ferguson.

Evidence that Kinane's body was again in full working order came in the Tote International Handicap when a strong finish brought victory for the Amanda Perrett-trained Tillerman. The Irishman made light of the effort later required of him on Montjeu, and the favourite could not have been in better hands.

People who earnestly believe that Kinane is the best jockey at work anywhere, point to his judgement in big races and a manner to suggest wise and independent virtue.

Beneath thick blond brows Kinane's expression usually suggests that the utmost attention is given to every question, especially when asked to reflect on the quality of horseflesh - which was inevitably the case after Montjeu's awe-inspiring success.

It did not sound remotely like boasting when Kinane said that the race was at his mercy five furlongs out and Montjeu won at three-quarter pace. "I've never ridden a horse quite like him and they only come along like this once in a lifetime."

Engaged in conversation by the Queen, the jockey was respectful but not humble. A polite nod sufficed. "I've met her before," Kinane said when asked about the experience.

Considering that Montjeu's prohibitive starting price of 1-3 deterred all but serious punters - "I couldn't resist going in with a 'wedge', Tabor said " - the reception he received was a reminder that profit and loss are not the only considerations of racegoers.

Racing for the first time in this country, Montjeu did not disappoint anyone who was drawn to Ascot by his presence. "Haven't backed a winner, but I wouldn't have missed this for the world," somebody said.

However, all did not end happily for Tabor and Kinane who were teamed up again in the Crocker Bulteel Maiden Stakes.

The word was out on the Aidan O'Brien trained Minardi, owned jointly by Tabor and Mrs John Magnier. It was the race to wait for, Minardi going off as the 5-4 favourite after some intense betting activity.

Minardi dealt convincingly with most threats but could not get to Jimmy Fortune on the 5-1 winner Rumpold. "Have faith," somebody had said when putting forward Minardi's virtues. He meant what he said. When he said it, anyway.

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