We all know that death is inevitable, yet we are still surprised when it happens. Montjeu was only 16 when he died today from complications related to septicaemia. He leaves behind an outstanding legacy with too many big winners to name, but even looking at his classic winners gives a sense of his achievements.
Classic Winners (Northern Hemisphere):
Hurricane Run (2002 c ex Hold On by Surumu) won Irish Derby
Motivator (2002 c ex Out West by Gone West) won Epsom Derby
Scorpion (2002 c ex Ard Melody by Law Society) won St Leger
Frozen Fire (2005 c ex Flamingo Sea by Woodman) won Irish Derby
Fame & Glory (2006 c ex Gryada by Shirley Heights)- won Irish Derby
Authorized (2006 ex Funsie by Saumurez) won Epsom Derby
Pour Moi (2008 c ex Gwynn by Darshaan)
Masked Marvel (2008 ex Waldmark by Mark of Esteem) won St Leger
Additional “Classic Winners” (depending on your definition)
Montare (2002 f ex Contare by Shirley Heights ) won Prix Royal Oak (French St Leger)
Jukebox Jury (2006 c ex Mare Aux Fees by Kenmare) won Irish St Leger
That is a remarkable level of consistency for a sire who has only had 8 crops of three year olds to represent him so far. It also goes without saying that there could be plenty more names added to this list before the final total is known with Camelot (ex Tarfah by Kingmambo) a short priced favourite for this years Derby and Guineas.
In addition he did very well from his stint down under (although it took some time to recognise this) and he has also enjoyed major national hunt success including festival winners Hurricane Fly and Noble Prince.
When Montjeu’s first crop of three year olds hit the track it was a phenomenon. He sired the first two in the Epsom Derby (Motivator and Walk in the Park) and Irish Derby (Hurricane Run and Scorpion). For good measure Scorpion added the St Leger and Hurricane Run the Arc that season. It seemed the true successor to his sire Sadler’s Wells had finally arrived. And then along came Galileo. Now it seems that Montjeu is always to be compared to his more expensive stud mate and almost invariably unfavourably. “He doesn’t sire milers and he doesn’t sire fillies and they carry their heads a little high” so the cream of the mares go to Galileo, just like their sire Sadler’s Wells kept the best mares from Caerleon. Indeed one wag suggested to me that the cause of his death was a broken heart as he felt like a jilted lover losing so many of his mares to Galileo!
But the comparison with Sadler’s Wells and Caerleon and the conventional wisdom is unfair. Montjeu is to my mind a better sire than Caerleon and in many respects a better sire than Galileo. The most important stat is usually stakes winners to foals- Galileo has 98 from 1651 foals of racing age (6%), Montjeu is currently 100 from 1318 foals (8%). If we factor in the superior quality of Galileo’s mares then Montjeu’s comparative record is all the more laudable. He also outperformed Galileo from their shuttle crops. As for his supposed failings with fillies and milers, those perceptions could easily change and very rapidly if for instance Camelot won a Guineas and Wading a fillies classic. With further crops to come it is worth waiting to see if his record with fillies and milers will improve in time. Even if they don’t, he has done enough to be regarded as one of the ten greatest sires to ever stand in Ireland. The others probably consist of Sadler’s Wells, Danehill, Habitat, Galileo, Birdcatcher, Gallinule, Blandford, Gallinule and Desmond.
Sons at Stud
To date the record of his sons at stud is underwhelming. Motivator seemed afflicted by bad luck suffering injuries and having small resultant crops but he was disappointing. Hurricane Run has got plenty of stakes horses but quickly needs a big name to keep his name in lights. Authorized had a quiet first season last year with his two year olds so he needs them to improve considerably as three year olds. There are still plenty of sons either yet to retire or just retired so there is plenty of time for a successor to emerge and it is worth remembering that Sadler’s Wells had more failures than successes before Montjeu came along.
It is also very early to make pronouncements Montjeu as a Broodmare sire. However last year saw Montjeu as broodmare sire of two of the best two year olds in Europe via Dewhurst winner Parish Hall (2009 c by Teofilo ex Halla Siamsa by Montjeu) and Group 2 winner Restiadargent (Kendargent ex Restia by Montjeu). Given Montjeu’s rivalry with Galileo it is interesting to see them combine in the pedigree of Parish Hall who is by Galileo’s son Teofilo and we can expect to see there names increasingly linked in future pedigrees.
Montjeu was an outstanding racehorse and his performance in the 2000 King George was as impressive as you could wish for. He had a great turn of foot for a horse who truly stayed 12 furlongs and would have got further. He also had courage as he demonstrated in a tough Arc when El Condor Paso got first run on him in heavy ground. He passed on many of these attributes to his offspring and he is huge loss to the European breeding industry.