John Hammond, who handled such greats as Montjeu and Suave Dancer, has announced that he is to retire from training at the end of the season.
His Chantilly yard is expected to transfer to the hands of young Japanese trainer Hiroo Shimizu, who has made a bright start to his training career this year in his debut season.
Hammond, 59, took out his license in 1987 following stints in Newmarket, California and then Andre Fabre. By 1991, he had a true star on his hands in Henri Chalboub’s Suave Dancer, a son of Green Dancer who went from maiden race winner to Prix du Jockey Club hero within the space of two months.
The $45,000 yearling later enjoyed an enthralling rivalry over the course of the 1991 season with Epsom Derby hero Generous; while Paul Cole’s colt had the upper hand in the Irish Derby, Suave Dancer turned the tables in brilliant fashion in the Arc, storming clear under Cash Asmussen having added the Irish Champion Stakes in between.
It is for his handling of Montjeu, however, that Hammond will always be associated. The son of Sadler’s Wells had won both his starts, including a Listed event, at two for Tsega Ltd to prompt the interest of Michael Tabor and partners. Thus it was in Tabor’s colours that Montjeu made a winning reappearance in the Prix Greffulhe at three.
A subsequent defeat in the Prix Lupin turned out to be only a minor blip as Montjeu proceeded to sweep the Prix du Jockey Club by four lengths, the Irish Derby by five and then the Arc, in which he was the only horse capable of running down the Japanese challenger El Condor Pasa.
Further Group 1 victories in the King George, in which he cantered clear of a toiling Fantastic Light, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and Tattersalls Gold Cup at four served to underline Montjeu’s reputation as one of the great horses of his era. He subsequently became an exceptional sire at Coolmore Stud.
Hammond also handled the careers of Group 1-winning sprinters such as Polar Falcon, today a major force in the stud book as sire of Pivotal, Cherokee Rose and Nuclear Debate, all of whom won the Haydock Sprint Cup.
Internationally minded, he also trained Dear Doctor, another Chalboub colour-bearer, to win the 1992 Arlington Million and more recently, Montjeu’s daughter Sarah Lynx to win the 2011 Canadian International.
Hammond will remain in the industry as European representative to OTI Racing. Before then, however, he is likely to enjoy another international foray courtesy of OTI’s recent Prix Gladiateur runner-up Haky, who is currently in quarantine ahead of a trip to Melbourne.