Tabor takes bookies to the cleaners

King George: Former bookmaker relieves old colleagues of a sizeable 'wedge' as Montjeu lands the odds

There were two processions at Ascot yesterday afternoon, one involving an old-age pensioner who will reach her hundredth birthday next Friday, and the other, more significant parade, featured Montjeu, who won the race that bears the Queen Mother's name almost without breaking sweat.

There were two processions at Ascot yesterday afternoon, one involving an old-age pensioner who will reach her hundredth birthday next Friday, and the other, more significant parade, featured Montjeu, who won the race that bears the Queen Mother's name almost without breaking sweat.

The four-year-old colt produced a performance befitting the 50th anniversary of the race, idling at the back of the field for a large part of the proceedings, before easing his way past his breathless challengers in the home straight as though they were donkeys on Blackpool beach.

Montjeu was duly returned at the prohibitive, Tiger Woods-like (Woods was 1-10 when the bookmakers closed the book on the Open before he had even completed his third round at St Andrews) odds of 1-3.

However, this did not stop his owner, the former East End bookmaker Michael Tabor, from punishing the betting ring with a substantial wedge - he was rumoured to have placed a bet of £90,000 to win £40,000 at 4-9 before his odds shortened to 1-3 - such was his confidence in his horse, who has now racked up more than £2m in prize-money.

The doubts raised earlier in the week about the horse actually running because of the prevailing fast ground were dismissed as "ridiculous" by Tabor. "He was always going to run", he added. Indeed, in the light of Montjeu's contemptuously easy win, it seems that certain bookmakers must have been indulging either in wishful thinking about his non-participation or in trying to "dissuade" the public from having a bet.

Some of this black propaganda looked as though it might be coming to fruition in the pre-parade ring, where Montjeu's two handlers found their charge reluctant to enter the parade ring itself.

Indeed, the horse's lad had to mount the horse and in effect ride him into the ring, such was the European champion's apparent dissatisfaction with proceedings. The sticky heat of a high summer day seemed to have got to him.

But Montjeu was, in racing parlance, "putting us away", as it became obvious that what he really wanted was to be the last to come out on to the stage in true grand thespian style. Montjeu was making his first appearance in England, having done all his previous racing in France, Ireland and Japan. "He knows he's special," the jockey Michael Kinane said with a calm grin, after the race.

Montjeu's equine disdain for his rivals next showed when he anchored himself at the rear of the field, apparently happy to allow Raypour, the pacemaker for the second favourite Daliapour, to shoot off as though "last orders" had just been called on this baking hot day.

But as the straight beckoned, it didn't require the course's giant television screen to reveal that Montjeu was easing into the race at little more than a canter.

Once the finishing post was in sight, Kinane let Montjeu cruise past those who had thought they might upstage last year's Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe winner, with Fantastic Light staying on to claimsecond spot for Godolphin.

The Maktoum family had almost made the King George their private fiefdom, winning it on nine of the past 12 runnings in various guises.

But they are short of really top-class horses this year in the mile and a half department and yesterday they had no answer. Envious looks were passed across from the runner's-up spot in the winner's enclosure as Montjeu took his bow before a suitably gob-smacked crowd.

"You could have won on him," Kinane told the well-fed Tabor as connections hugged in celebration after the race. Tabor, who was enriched when he sold his chain of betting-shops in the early 1990s, then anticipated a meeting with their best horse, Dubai Millennium, in Ireland's Champion Stakes, which sadly will not take place.

After that, it's another Arc, then retirement. But those who saw Montjeu at Ascot yesterday can make the best of all sporting boasts - "we were there".

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