Time will restore Montjeu's reputation

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The Independent Online

For some, Champions Day provides an early jotting of promise in the report book. For others it delivers something quite different. It represents an epitaph. The budding and shrivelling of careers on the same day: it is what makes the Newmarket card so compelling.

For some, Champions Day provides an early jotting of promise in the report book. For others it delivers something quite different. It represents an epitaph. The budding and shrivelling of careers on the same day: it is what makes the Newmarket card so compelling.

With apologies to chronology, both of life and racecard order, we must start with Saturday's Champion Stakes. The early aftermath of the contest reeks of a race that Montjeu lost rather than Kalanisi won, but time will change that.

Montjeu's defeat at the Rowley Mile course, following a humbling in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, will encroach as much into his reputation as it did with Nijinsky, who was also beaten in those two races 30 years ago.

Until just over two weeks ago it had all begun to look so easy for John Hammond's colt, but it may be that was all an illusion. He was lifeless in Paris, and battle scarred when it came to a face-out with Kalanisi.

A cruel assessment of his career could be that he thrashed mediocrity with ease, that when the swords clanged he was not as effective. Certainly it was not a great King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes this year, and, when you analyse the Montjeu victories, they have not been against extreme notables. Last year's Arc apart, he never had to fight to win.

Yet we should not dawdle on the black and white of Montjeu's career. We should remember the colour, remember him for the French and Irish Derbys, last year's Arc and this year's King George.

As with Nijinsky, we should recognise him for the rare thrill of his good days, as well as the soundness that not many horses of their ample proportions possess, and the turn of foot unusual in thoroughbreds which stayed so well. Breeders hope the comparisons will extend to Montjeu's ability to pass on his athleticism at stud.

It is right to talk about Montjeu's career in the past, as that was the tense Hammond used on Saturday. The immediate attitude of the trainer seemed to be that the colt would head off to stud at Coolmore in Ireland. Michael Tabor, a part-owner, suggested the Breeders' Cup Turf in Kentucky, but Hammond harbours reservations.

Word from Chantilly yesterday was that all owners would be consulted before Montjeu was disconnected from racing. Some of them must have been out, because the decision looks an obvious one.

However, it is wrong to linger too much on reason for defeat. We should rather celebrate a victory. Kalanisi exhibited that races of attrition with Giant's Causeway had not sickened him on Saturday as he further gilded the season for the Aga Khan and his rider Johnny Murtagh, for whom this was a ninth Group One success of the year.

Kalanisi looks straightforward enough on a racecourse, but he is still not entirely tame. When the colt is let out for a pick of grass at Sir Michael Stoute's Freemason Lodge in Newmarket it takes about 15 minutes to persuade him to return to quarters. The Breeders' Cup Turf and Japan Cup are possibilities.

Tobougg, the winner of the Dewhurst Stakes, also has his quirks. According to Mick Channon, his trainer, there is class there, but also a playboy instinct. The horse probably returns to West Ilsley in the early hours after a night out with an undone bow tie draped around his neck.

It was not a startling performance from Tobougg, but it was victory in Britain's most prestigious two-year-old race. He easily saw off the Irish challenge of the fading Mozart, who proved not be to the prodigy his name night suggest, and Freud, Giant's Causeway's full brother, who ran as if he were closer related to Sir Clement.

Tobougg is now as short as 6-1 with William Hill for the 2,000 Guineas, but it was a sign of the times that it was the horse's livery rather than his capacity which was soon under discussion. The winner is owned by Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum, who is to rule on whether Tobougg is to be transferred to his brother Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation.

Godolphin either breed them, buy them at the yearling sales, buy them from their rivals in succeeding seasons or conscript them from within the family ranks. It is an alldevouring method, a method of removing some of the guesswork from racing.

Channon was not indignant when asked about Tobougg's future, not disturbed about the prospect of being an equine foster parent, but then why should he be? When it comes to either having a well-bred two-year-old snatched away at the end of its juvenile campaign or not having a well-bred two-year-old at all, the equation is not exactly complicated.

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