Montjeu meets his nemesis

Champion a race too far for French colt as Kalanisi gains a deserved big race win

The scales of justice did not tip in favour of Kalanisi out of turn here in the Champion Stakes yesterday. But in a sad reprise of the events of 30 years ago, when Nijinsky, the fallen hero, was humbled by the inferior Lorenzaccio, Kalanisi beat Montjeu, a shadow of the colt who won two Derbys, a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and a King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

The scales of justice did not tip in favour of Kalanisi out of turn here in the Champion Stakes yesterday. But in a sad reprise of the events of 30 years ago, when Nijinsky, the fallen hero, was humbled by the inferior Lorenzaccio, Kalanisi beat Montjeu, a shadow of the colt who won two Derbys, a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and a King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

The race had been billed as the redemption of Montjeu, only fourth to Sinndar in this year's Arc two weeks ago. But like Nijinsky, Montjeu found Longchamp and Newmarket two bridges too far. After some traffic problems early, Mick Kinane weaved through to tackle Kalanisi, but Montjeu's heart never seemed in the fight and he went down by half a length.

It was no more than Kalanisi deserved, after having been on the losing end of two titanic battles with Giant's Causeway in the Eclipse Stakes and International Stakes earlier in the season. A mile and two furlongs is the Doyoun four-year-old's specialist subject and but for those two narrow defeats he would now be a triple Group One winner at the distance.

His victory capped a fine year in Europe for owner the Aga Khan and jockey Johnny Murtagh and he may now, though, step up to a mile and a half further afield in the Japan Cup, a race Sir Michael Stoute, his trainer, has won with Singspiel and Pilsudski, a former Champion Stakes winner.

"I have always thought he would get the 12 furlongs and he has had only five races so far this year," said Stoute. "He is quite a character and a really tough and brave horse."

It was a ninth Group One win of the season for Murtagh. "When I saw Montjeu coming up alongside me in the final furlong I moved my fellow over towards him. It was always going to be tough for him just two weeks after the Arc and I knew mine would really battle. he's as tough as nails."

John Hammond, Montjeu's trainer, could do nothing but put on a brave face. "I felt it was the right thing to come here, or else we wouldn't have," he said, "but it is hard to keep a horse at the top for two seasons." Despite Hammond's downbeat mood, though, the idea that Montjeu may fight again another day - in the mile and a half of the Breeders' Cup Turf - has not been ruled out.

After the Dewhurst Stakes, the premier race for two-year-olds of the season, it did not take Sheikh Mohammed long to leave off patting his runner-up Noverre and join the circle of admirers round the winner Tobougg. In the autumn the Sheikh collects high-class young prospects the way a schoolboy picks up conkers and it would be no surprise if this one is soon on the way to Dubai to be seasoned in the Godolphin oven. But unlike this year's three previous high-profile acquisitions Rumpold, Atlantis Prince and Celtic Silence, at least Tobougg would be an in-house transfer, as he already runs in the colours of a Maktoum, Mohammed's youngest sibling Ahmed.

The Barathea colt's trainer Mick Channon, having come through one school of hard sporting knocks as a former professional footballer, is fairly philosophical about the future of his present charge, and was just enjoying the moment. "I'm paid to train them, not fall in love with them," he said. "This one looks an obvious Guineas prospect, but I don't know whether he will still be with me next spring or will have joined Godolphin. But that is for the future. Today is what matters now and every trainer wants to be here with runners on a day like this in a race like this. It's like playing in a cup final. It's an occasion."

It was not a particularly distinguished-looking Dewhurst field, with several of the 10 contenders fluffing their coats up against the chill of the afternoon. Even though the Ballydoyle team pacemaker Cashel Palace set a decent clip in front his best-fancied stablemate Mozart was still over-keen in Mick Kinane's hands. Tobougg, beautifully settled under Craig Williams, moved to the front a furlong from home and strode a length and a quarter clear of Noverre, who held Tempest by a head. Mozart came in fourth, ahead of Freud and Vacamonte.

It was a smooth performance by an athletic-looking colt, who is, according to Channon, "a trainer's dream". Tobougg, named after an area in Saudi Arabia, cost 230,000gns as a yearling, was the only previous Group One winner in the field, having taken the Prix de la Salamandre at Longchamp. Channon added: "He's been a lovely horse from the moment I saw him at the sales and he's turned into everything we hoped he would. He goes on any ground, you can put him anywhere in a race and he just gets on with it. As far as I was concerned the main danger to him today was probably himself. He is so laid back and doesn't always concentrate; Craig said that he was looking at the crowd from two furlongs out."

Bookmakers were promoted Tobougg to second spot - he is 8-1 with the Tote - in the ante-post 2,000 Guineas lists, behind Nayef (5-1), owned by another Maktoum brother, Hamdan. Tobougg has now finished for the year but Noverre, from the Godolphin nursery in France, may now try his luck in the Breeders Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs three weeks hence.

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