Motivator making a comeback with big results as broodmare sire
Martin Stevens looks at a new dimension to the Derby winner's stud record
Motivator's stallion career has taken more twists and turns than the course of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.
Retired to the Royal Studs after landing the Derby and running second to Oratorio in the Eclipse and Irish Champion Stakes, the first-crop son of Montjeu was syndicated among 50 prominent breeders and assigned an opening fee of £20,000.
However, his first season at Sandringham in 2006 was curtailed after he slipped in his paddock late in the spring, and he missed the 2010 covering season entirely due to a tendon injury.
The timing of the second mishap was unfortunate to say the least, as the young sire was unable to capitalise on the fair impression he had made with his depleted debut crop of 61 two-year-olds in 2009 – including the May Hill Stakes winner Pollenator and narrowly beaten Autumn Stakes runner-up Prompter.
Motivator's three-year-old runners did not set the world alight, though, and when he resumed stud duty in 2011 he did so at a lower fee of £8,000 and received only 57 mares.
By 2012 he was down to £5,000 and 44 mares but that year he supplied his first Group 1 winner in the shape of Mikel Delzangles' Prix de l'Opera heroine Ridasiyna, so it was to the surprise of nobody that the decision was taken to send him to France, with Haras du Quesnay chosen as his new home for 2013.
Motivator proved popular at Quesnay during Treve's heyday, with 92 foals now aged five resulting from his first season, 78 born in 2015 and 72 in 2016. However, those crops have yielded just two stakes winners – albeit both, Megera and Vue Fantastique, were Group 1 runners-up – and demand for the stallion's services has dried up somewhat. France Galop records him as having just 21 two-year-olds and 24 yearlings.
History will likely look back on Motivator as a useful but inconsistent source of talented middle-distance runners and stayers, of which this year's Royal Ascot third-place finishers King Ottokar and Time To Study, both bred by Quesnay, are typical.
MOTIVATOR'S STAKES PERFORMERS AS DAMSIRE
A'Ali (by Society Rock)
Won Norfolk S-G2, Prix Robert Papin-G2
Fleeting (by Zoffany)
Won May Hill S-G2, 2nd Irish Oaks-G1, Ribblesdale S-G2, 3rd Oaks-G1
Foxtrot Liv (by Foxwedge)
2nd Weld Park S-G3, 3rd Irish 1,000 Guineas-G1
Lockheed (by Exceed And Excel)
2nd German 2,000 Guineas-G2, 3rd National S-G1, Acomb S-G3
Vin De Garde (by Deep Impact)
3rd Mainichi Hai-G3
Old Fox (by Lord Shanakill)
2nd Premio Emanuele Filiberto-LR, 3rd Premio Guido Berardelli-G3, Gran Premio D'Italia-LR
Danielsflyer (by Dandy Man)
2nd Woodcote S-LR
Likala (by Exceed And Excel)
3rd Grand Criterium de Bordeaux-LR
True Group 1 performers of the calibre of Treve and Ridasiyna have been the exception rather than the rule, though, and unless his recent crops yield a superstar son, the chances of him founding a sire-line look slim indeed.
However, Motivator has made his presence felt in top-tier racing this year thanks to his daughters. He is the broodmare sire of A'Ali, winner of the Prix Robert Papin on Sunday after taking the Norfolk Stakes at Ascot; Fleeting, last season's May Hill Stakes winner who ran second to Star Catcher in the Irish Oaks on Saturday after also finishing runner-up to that filly in the Ribblesdale Stakes and taking third in the Oaks; and Foxtrot Liv, who outran odds of 25-1 when third to Hermosa in the Irish 1,000 Guineas in May.
Of course, every stallion will inevitably be represented by good horses in this department as their daughters retire to paddocks and produce more and more offspring each year. We are arguably prone to overstate the influence of the broodmare sire, who is just one of four grandparents after all; it would seem strange in the human realm to single out the father of the mother of a champion sportsperson for their genetic gift to the grandchild.
Nevertheless, Motivator deserves a little extra credit for his recent achievements as broodmare sire. First, those injuries sustained in his early years at stud mean he has fewer offspring than many of his peers with equally high profiles.
For the record, there have been 64 winners from 129 runners out of his daughters in the northern hemisphere, including two stakes winners.
By way of comparison, his old sparring partner Oratorio has had 105 winners from 254 runners as broodmare sire, including seven stakes winners, while the two star pupils among the sires who retired in 2006, Dubawi and Shamardal, have had 177 winners from 315 runners and 205 winners from 363 runners in the northern hemisphere, with 14 and 21 stakes winners apiece.
Second, Motivator's high-class maternal grandchildren have relatively humble origins. The Tally-Ho Stud-bred A'Ali is by the late Society Rock, a fine source of pace and precocity but priced at just €6,000 in the year Simon Crisford's charge was conceived, and his placed dam Motion Lass, whose best Racing Post Rating stood at just 66, was traded for just 13,000gns and 9,000gns.
Fleeting is out of Azafata, a champion three-year-old – in Spain, and consequently without black type. The dam is out of Anysheba, a daughter of Alysheba from a top Wertheimer family, although she was sold into Spain for just 15,000gns. Her liaison with Zoffany cost breeder Fernando Bermudez only €12,500.
Foxtrot Liv, meanwhile, was bred by Northmore Stud from Foxwedge, who was available for £7,000 in 2015, out of Bestfootforward, a Brighton Class 6 handicap winner.
All of which provides a timely appetiser for the first runners out of the pièce de résistance of Motivator's progeny record, Treve. Her first foal is a two-year-old colt by Dubawi, although the fact he remains unnamed by owner-breeder Al Shaqab Racing does not bode well for him making an early start this year.
Presumably more is thought of her second offspring, a Shalaa yearling filly who has already been given the momentous name of Paris.