Pour Moi makes astounding start to his new life as a jumps sire
Epsom winner from only second crop too late to keep him on Flat roster
Come back, come back! Pour Moi, all is forgiven.
An extraordinary impersonation of his sire’s own Derby performance, six years previously, on Saturday allowed Wings Of Eagles - a member of only his second crop - to dish out a stunning rebuke to everyone who had given up so quickly on Pour Moi. And it is, to be sure, an embarrassingly populous group: comprising not just pundits, not just mare owners, but even his owners at Coolmore Stud.
Last year, they had cut him to €10,000 - half his initial fee, and a hard-headed acknowledgement that his opening books had collapsed from 122 to 57 mares. For the 2017 season, they grasped the nettle. He would have to be rebranded, and sent to their National Hunt division at Grange. Terms of his business were never specified, suggesting that they might be pretty flexible.
In fairness, it made a lot of sense. Montjeu has been making an increasing impact as a sire of jumps sires, through the likes of Scorpion and Walk In The Park. And though he had sired a joint-record four Derby winners, Montjeu was known to have a more delicate temperament than Galileo. Perhaps Camelot - like Tavistock, excelling in the southern hemisphere - will prove able to pass on the quality of their sire without the quirks. On the Flat in Europe, however, it had begun to seem as though Montjeu had an awful lot of eggs in that one remaining basket.
It is curious, admittedly, that his sons should be excelling in an environment that makes such demands of courage and constitution, but evidently the combination of class and stamina can cover a multitude of other sins in jumping. Either way, the fact was that Pour Moi had mustered very little on the Flat - while already a couple of promising young hurdlers had emerged in Coeur De Lion and Quids In.
His first crop of juveniles, in 2015, mustered only a handful of wins and relied on the precocity of Only Mine for a Listed success. That horse graduated to Group 3 success at three, but the first real sign of hope last year came in Australia, where Sacred Elixir vindicated Pour Moi’s shuttle to Windsor Park Stud in New Zealand with Group 1 success in the JJ Atkins Stakes.
On the face of it, the Pour Moi colt who won a median auction maiden at Killarney last August did not promise to add a great deal to that momentum. Indeed, while he looked green in front that day, a less charitable interpretation seemed possible when Wings Of Eagles was still hanging awkwardly at Chester last month.
He was bred by Gilles and Aliette Forien in France, where both Montjeu and Pour Moi had risen to stardom, from their Kendor mare Ysoldina. Classic-placed herself, in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, she was a half-sister to four Group scorers including Belle Et Celebre, who won the Prix Saint-Alary. The runner-up that day, incidentally, was Gagnoa - a half-sister to Pour Moi.
Ysoldina has produced three winners, two also stakes placed, while the physical quality of the Montjeu line has never been in doubt. As such, MV Magnier was prepared to stretch to €220,000 for her Pour Moi colt as an Arqana August yearling.
For the second consecutive day, then, it has been shown that those breeders who think that Galileo more or less has a lock on the Classics are guilty of a self-fulfilling prophecy. On Friday, one of his relatively affordable young sons showed that Coolmore do not have a monopoly on Classic blood; and now we have seen the dividends available when breeders like the Foriens have the sense to resist the timid commercial stampede towards speed and precocity.
In the circumstances, perhaps Coolmore would sooner Cliffs Of Moher had been able to hold out. Certainly it will be fascinating to see whether Wings Of Eagles proves a flash in the pan, or capable of consolidating this breakthrough both on his sire’s behalf and in building towards a stallion career of his own.
A personal hunch is that another newcomer to the Coolmore National Hunt roster, Champs Elysees at Castlehyde, would have been perfectly capable of producing Derby horses with enough support from the right mares. If it is hard for some sires to meet excessive expectations, it can be harder still to overcome modest ones.
At the other end of the scale, meanwhile, it was impressive to see both Frankel colts see out such a strongly-run Derby so thoroughly; while Benbatl’s fifth place precisely matches the finish of Dubawi’s only two previous starters in the race.