Weblog: Approaching bloodstock from outside the box
Montjeu and the end of an era
I WAS told that one day in 1998 as Demi O'Byrne was watching French racing on Equidia, he saw a two-year-old win his first race at Chantilly. He advised the Coolmore team to get involved in the horse that in O'Byrne's eyes was to become something special.
In 1999, on his third start and first race as a three-year-old, Montjeu would run in the famous Tabor colours and win the Prix Greffuhle at Longchamp, beating another very talented horse called Sendawar. That same year Montjeu would go on to win the French Derby, Irish Derby and Arc de Triomphe, in the latter beating Japanese raider El Condor Pasa in a thrilling finish.
That same year we saw another remarkable horse. Sheikh Mohammed had renamed his Yaazer to Dubai Millennium a year earlier, thinking he could be the perfect horse to run in the new millennium's edition of the Dubai World Cup. Dubai Millennium won two of the biggest mile races that year; the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville and the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot.
The two horses, Montjeu and Dubai Millennium where the outstanding three-year-olds of 1999.
In 2000, the excitement started in March, Dubai Millennium had arrived at his destiny race, the Dubai World Cup. Leading from start to finish, he annihilated the field with a jaw dropping performance. Two months later Montjeu made his seasonal reappearance by winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh. He followed that up by winning the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud.
Dubai Millennium's next race was in the Prince of Wales' Stakes at Royal Ascot. He beat German star Sumitas by 8 lengths. Montjeu would run again a month later in the King George. He in turn never came of the bridle making subsequent Group 1 winners Fantastic Light and Daliapour look like work horses.
By this point in time two camps had formed like with the Beatles and the Stones, you either thought that Montjeu was the best of the crop or you thought that Dubai Millennium was the real deal. It got to the point where even the Coolmore and Godolphin teams agreed that the mattershould be settled and a two-horse match race between them was organised. The race was never run, Dubai Millennium got injured and was forced into early retirement.
Despite Montjeu's next win in the Prix Foy at Longchamp, his best days were behind him too. He went on to finish fourth behind Sinndar in that year's 'Arc', second to Kalanisi in the Champion Stakes and another disappointing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Montjeu had lost his lethal turn-of-foot.
The next year, in 2001, both Dubai Millennium and Montjeu retired to the paddocks taking up stud duties in Newmarket and Fethard respectively. The former started his career at a hefty £100,000 stud fee, Montjeu at a more modest 30,000 Irish Guineas. In April that year Dubai Millennium suffered from grass sickness and died, leaving his legacy with the few mares he had successfully covered. Dubai Millennium sired Dubawi from his first and only crop, he went on to win the Irish 2,000 Guineas and is currently one of the most promising stallions at stud.
Montjeu went on to produce Group 1 winners such as Motivator, Hurricane Run and Scorpion from his first crop and he would go on to produce two more Derby winners in Authorized and Pour Moi. With last year's Racing Post Trophy winner Camelot he has another promising contender for the ultimate classic.
Back in 2000, while I was in Coolmore, two mares were brought in one morning, one of them with a cowbell around her neck. It was Montjeu's dam, Floripedes. She was blind and had a buddy who guided her with the sound of her cow bell. After Montjeu, Floripedes would give birth to another five foals; three Sadler's Wellscolts, a Cearleon and a Polish Precedent, unfortunately none of them as good as Montjeu.
Twelve years after that incredible season with Dubai Millennium and Montjeu, the two stars are no longer among us, leaving their sons like Dubawi, Hurricane Run and Pour Moi to carry on their father's success story. That's what racing and breeding is all about.