The premature loss of a great stallion – and Montjeu was exactly that – inevitably focuses attention on his stallion sons. Will any of them prove an adequate replacement for a stallion who had strong claims to being the most effective sire of Classic colts over a mile and a half or more, even in the era of Galileo?
Of course mile-and-a-half colts don’t always receive as warm a welcome from the breeding community as they should, so how have Montjeu’s sons been faring? Unfortunately it has been far from plain sailing for some of them, but there is every reason to think that the best is yet to come.
It was Motivator’s win in the 2004 Racing Post Trophy which first highlighted Montjeu’s potential brilliance. Of course Motivator went on to become the first of Montjeu’s four Derby winners in the space of eight years, but he went lame in his off-hind while being prepared for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The problems continued when his first season at the Royal Studs in 2006 was brought to a premature halt after he had slipped in his paddock.
Consequently he covered only 80 of the 115 mares originally booked to him. The end result was a first crop of 63 foals, which put him at a numerical disadvantage.
He had no such problems in the next two seasons, siring 103 foals in his second and 101 in his third, while his fourth season yielded 75. Then he suffered a tendon injury to his near-hind in the autumn of 2009 which prevented him covering at all in 2010 and necessitated a cautious approach to the 2011 season, when he is credited with covering 59 mares. It appears to have been all systems go again in 2012 at the very attractive fee of only £5,000.
One of the main criticisms of Montjeu as a sire was that his colts generally outperformed his fillies; the opposite seems to be true for Motivator
The problems encountered by Motivator look all the more regrettable in view of the encouraging results achieved by his first crop. No fewer than 12 of his 63 first-crop foals earned black type, with seven of them (11%) becoming stakes winners. Nine more black-type performers followed in his second crop and his total of five in his 2009 crop will surely rise higher.
One of the main criticisms of Montjeu as a sire was that his colts generally far outperformed his fillies. However, the opposite seems to be true for Motivator. All four of his Group winners – Pollenator, Skia, Clinical and Ridasiyna – are fillies and so are four of his six Listed winners, including Motrice, Captivator and Vow, who was beaten less than two lengths when fourth behind Was in this year’s Oaks.
It is possible to argue that Montjeu’s daughters benefited from not being rushed and it appears that Motivator’s daughters are also well worth keeping in training after the age of three, as the likes of Motrice, Skia, Captivator, Clinical and Federation have shown over the last two seasons.
Vow and Ridasiyna have also been doing well at the age of three. The latter looks an exciting prospect, as she has raced three times and won three times. The nearest any of her rivals has got to her is two lengths, and that was the regally-bred Romantica (by Galileo out of Banks Hill) in the Group 3 Prix Chloe over nine furlongs.
Ridasiyna’s broodmare sire is Darshaan, whose daughters provided Montjeu with such notable stayers as Blue Bajan and Honolulu, not to mention Pour Moi. This suggests that Ridasiyna could have a leading role to play in the autumn’s top fillies’ races in France.
Hurricane Run and Scorpion were two other stars in Montjeu’s first crop. It was announced in June that Hurricane Run, winner of the 2005 Arc and 2006 King George, is leaving Coolmore to stand at the Gestüt Ammerland of his breeder Dietrich von Boetticher. Hurricane Run started out well but gradually encountered difficulties in the breeding shed, which explains why this top-class performer is credited with covering only 54 mares in 2010 and 57 in 2011.
Hurricane Run’s first crop, born in 2008, numbered 151 foals. Sixteen of these 151 have so far earned black type, with the smart Memphis Tennessee among the six which have enjoyed Group success, so he definitely possesses ability.
Scorpion’s record featured several first-rate efforts, including victories in the Grand Prix de Paris, St Leger and Coronation Cup, but, coming from the same female line as Ardross and Alflora, he was considered more suited to the National Hunt sector. Scorpion’s eldest progeny, three-year-olds of 2012, caused quite a stir at the Derby Sale, with one gelding selling for €250,000 and another for €130,000.
The best of Montjeu’s second-crop sons was Papal Bull. Although a multiple Group winner at Group 2 and Group 3 levels, he appeared to face an uphill struggle when he retired as he hadn’t quite managed a Group 1 win and he needed a mile and a half or more as a mature horse. He didn’t lack ability, though, as he showed with his close second to Duke Of Marmalade in the 2008 King George. His first two-year-olds are racing in 2012 and he is already off the mark.
Authorized, who followed in Motivator’s footsteps by winning the Racing Post Trophy and Derby, succeeded where Motivator twice narrowly failed, becoming a major Group 1 winner over a mile and a quarter after the Derby. His impressive victory over Dylan Thomas, Notnowcato and Duke Of Marmalade in the Juddmonte International can only have helped his appeal as a stallion. He hasn’t made a fast start but his daughters Colima and Estrela helped complete a 1-2-3 for grand-daughters of Montjeu in the Oaks Trial at Lingfield. I will be surprised if his record doesn’t improve.
There was more woe when Montmartre retired to the French National Stud in 2009. This colt had looked a potential Arc winner when he romped home four lengths clear in the Grand Prix de Paris, but that proved to be his final appearance. If I remember rightly, Montmartre initially proved a reluctant coverer and he is credited with only one foal in his first crop. Fortunately, he seems to have got the hang of things and he has nearly 60 foals in his second crop, born in 2011.
The Irish Derby winner Frozen Fire, a member of the same crop as Montmartre, stands alongside Papal Bull at Coolagowan Stud, but he is being aimed at the National Hunt market. I suspect a similar future awaits Fame And Glory, which is quite an indictment against an industry which should cherish a handsome, sound, well-bred horse with Group 1 victories to his name at every age from two to five.
St Nicholas Abbey is another who has proved a dependable Group 1 performer over several seasons. As a winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf from the Sadler’s Wells male line he follows in the footsteps of In The Wings and High Chaparral, which bodes well for his prospects as a stallion.
That said, it could be Montjeu saved the best till last, as his legacy features the last two Derby winners. The fact that Pour Moi was injured before he could race again robbed him of his chance of justifying Andre Fabre’s belief that he was a true champion. However, this handsome, medium-sized horse, from a prolific Group 1 family, has been patronised by numerous leading breeders in his first season at Coolmore. In other words, he is being given an outstanding chance of making the grade.
Now we have the exciting prospect of the triple Classic winner Camelot stepping into Montjeu’s shoes. The stallions in the first three generations of his pedigree are Montjeu, Sadler’s Wells, Kingmambo, Northern Dancer, Top Ville, Mr Prospector and Danehill.
Top Ville might be considered the weakest link among this stellar collection of prolific Classic stallions, but he sired winners of such races as the St Leger, Irish Oaks, French St Leger, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, Prix Vermeille, Coronation Cup and the International at York. He achieved all that during an era of much smaller books of mares, his total output, before being retired at the age of 18, being 436 foals.
Shirocco’s promising start has not gone unnoticed
There’s a saying in American sport that second place is just the first loser. I was left pondering the truth of this harsh phrase when I turned to Bated Breath’s commentary in the latest Racehorses annual. Despite doing well enough to earn a rating of 125, his three close seconds at Group 1 level were apparently not enough to earn him an essay, rather than the usual short comment.
Another example of this syndrome concerns Shirocco, a Monsun stallion whose fee for 2012 was reduced to £7,000 after he had attracted only 75 mares in 2011, compared to 148 at a fee of £10,000 two years earlier.
Brown Panther, the star of Shirocco’s first crop, found only one too good for him in the St Leger and this year’s Oaks saw Shirocco Star, a game filly from his second crop, finish a neck second. So this four-time Group/Grade 1 winner has gone close to having a Classic winner in each of his first two crops.
As yet Shirocco is still awaiting his first Group 1 winner, but that shouldn’t deter anyone, as he is proving to be a dependable source of above-average performers. Take a look at his progeny’s Racing Post ratings and you’ll find that as many as six members of his first crop are rated 112 or higher, with another four rated between 100 and 102. Thanks to Shirocco Star and Hartani, a very progressive stayer who was winning for the third time in four starts when he landed the Group 3 Curragh Cup, Shirocco now has eight horses rated 112 or higher.
Two other stallion sons of Monsun – Samum and Manduro – have already hit the Group 1 target and the signs are that Shirocco won’t be long in joining them. I’m pleased to say that his bright start hasn’t gone unnoticed, as he covered 123 mares this year.