It may be stating the obvious but the very essence of Classic middle-distance racing is still encapsulated by the Derby and Oaks, even after a history of more than 200 years.
Having sired five winners of the Oaks and two of the Derby (plus seven Derby runners-up), the immortal Sadler’s Wells became the main source of that essence before passing the mantle firmly to his sons Galileo and Montjeu. Montjeu, of course, leads the way with four Derby winners in the space of eight years, but Galileo also has winners of the Derby and Oaks on his CV, plus a couple of Derby seconds.
Judging by the fields assembled for the latest editions of the Derby and Oaks, Galileo and Montjeu are going to continue to exert a mighty influence. Of the 11 contenders in the Oaks, three were by Galileo and two were by Galileo’s sons Teofilo and New Approach, while Montjeu had a single representative, as did his sons Hurricane Run and Motivator. That adds up to eight of the 11.
It was a similar story with the 12 Derby runners. No fewer than five of the colts were sons of Galileo and two were by his son New Approach. Yet another, the German challenger Chopin, has a Galileo mare as his dam. With Montjeu also having a representative, that adds up to nine of the 12. Add the two Classics together and you have 17 of the 23 runners having either Galileo or Montjeu in their pedigrees.
Thanks to Talent, Secret Gesture, Ruler Of The World, Libertarian and Galileo Rock, the Galileo/New Approach axis supplied first and second in the Oaks (and the first three in the Derby).
A day later at Chantilly, the 19-strong field for the Prix du Jockey-Club didn’t show such a pronounced dependence on Galileo and Montjeu, but these two still made their presence felt. Galileo supplied the favourite Intello, while his son Teofilo also had a leading contender in Loch Garman. So too did Montjeu’s sons Motivator (Sky Hunter) and Hurricane Run (First Cornerstone). Victory, of course, went to Intello, with Sky Hunter also showing plenty of potential in third.
With Frankel, Rip Van Winkle, Nathaniel and Pour Moi already representing Galileo or Montjeu, it is hard to envisage any slackening of the Sadler’s Wells stranglehold for many a year. And the likes of Ruler Of The World, Intello, Dawn Approach, Camelot and St Nicholas Abbey can only help tighten the grip.
Wertheimer impact should not be underestimated
When writers refer to the great breeding operations of the thoroughbred world, the Wertheimer brothers sometimes don’t receive the full respect merited by their family’s achievements over several decades.
Hopefully that will change now that Gérard and Alain have landed the Prix du Jockey-Club with the exciting Intello, just eight months after the filly Solemia had given them their first Arc victory. Their distinctive blue and white colours have also recently been carried to a pair of Group 1 victories by Solemia’s relative Silasol, and who could forget the exploits of the excellent half-sisters Goldikova and Galikova?
Goldikova’s full-brother Anodin was another to add to the recent haul with victory in the Group 3 Prix Paul de Moussac. There have been plenty of other top-level successes for the brothers on both sides of the Atlantic since they inherited the stable on the death of their father, Jacques.
The brothers are the third generation of the family to have made a major impact on French racing. First came their grandfather Pierre, whose widow Germaine maintained the stable for nearly a decade before her death in 1974, when the stable passed to Jacques, who died in 1996. Jacques also won the Arc with a filly. Indeed he did so twice, with Ivanjica in 1976 and Gold River (the third dam of Goldikova) in 1981. Jacques also took the 1975 Prix du Jockey-Club with Val de l’Orne, just three years after his mother had taken the Chantilly Classic with Roi Lear.
It is a measure of the sustained success of the family’s breeding and racing operations that Intello’s victory in the Prix du Jockey- Club – a race still considered the equivalent of the Derby despite its distance reduction – came 57 years after Pierre Wertheimer had welcomed the homebred Lavandin into Epsom’s winner’s enclosure following the 1956 Derby. It is also 90 years since Pierre Wertheimer won the Stewards’ Cup with the phenomenal Epinard, and the Frenchman also won the 1,000 Guineas with Mesa as long ago as 1935.
Alain and Gérard had already made their mark on the racing world before the death of their father, as they bred a Darshaan colt named Kotashaan which they raced, together with their father, under the name La Presle Farm. The American-based Kotashaan won the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Turf on his way to taking the title of champion turf horse.
Some of their earliest important successes following their father’s death in 1996 came with Intello’s second dam, Occupandiste, who was bred by the brothers in 1993. She led throughout to win a pair of Group 1s in 1997, being especially impressive in taking the Prix de la Foret by six lengths. Her other major success came in the Prix Maurice de Gheest over 1,300m, so she had plenty of pace. In the circumstances, it was understandable that Intello’s connections were in no rush after the Jockey-Club for the colt to tackle a mile and a half.
Talking to Jour de Galop, the Wertheimers’ racing manager Pierre-Yves Bureau said: “The Prix Jacques le Marois is a possible option at the moment for Intello. It is an important race for his owners but it will be André Fabre who decides whether he runs or not.
“The Prix Jacques le Marois is the only race that Intello would run in if he is to run again before the autumn. Even if he does run in it that does not mean that the door is closed to 2,400m in the future.”
The possibility of Intello dropping back to a mile is interesting. With better luck in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains he would already be a Group 1 winner over the distance. And it is by no means unknown for winners of the revamped Prix du Jockey-Club to revert successfully to a mile. Shamardal ran away with the St James’s Palace Stakes and Lawman took the Prix Jean Prat just as easily.
Whether Intello possesses the same basic speed as Shamardal and Lawman remains to be seen, but he represents the same Galileo-Danehill cross as Frankel, Roderic O’Connor and Golden Lilac, who were all Classic-winning milers, and the cross also produced top two-year-olds Teofilo and Maybe, so don’t be surprised if Intello proves versatile.