Must-see Montaigu spreads its wings with homebred Derby hero
Isabel Mathew talks to Aliette Forien about standing Wings Of Eagles
Wings Of Eagles winning last year’s Derby may have come as something of a surprise, but the colt showed that victory was no fluke when he finished third in the Irish equivalent a few weeks later, despite suffering a career-ending injury.
In the autumn, it was announced the son of Pour Moi, who himself had flown the French flag at Epsom by taking the Classic for Andre Fabre in 2011, would be returning to his birthplace to take up stallion duties with his breeder Aliette Forien at Haras de Montaigu in Normandy.
“To have the opportunity to stand a homebred who was the first French-bred Derby winner for more than 50 years is very special,” says Forien. “I’m delighted that Coolmore took the decision to send him to us. It’s a dream come true.”
Wings Of Eagles was a maiden winner at two, and finished runner-up in the Chester Vase before the Derby. He will stand his first season at a fee of €12,000, the same as the Aga Khan Studs’ new recruit Zarak.
“We thought a lot about where we wanted to situate him in the French stallion market,” Forien continues. “We obviously didn’t want him to be so expensive that he didn’t have the mare numbers. The final decision we made has been well received by breeders, though, so he should be very popular. Physically, he’s a fantastic-looking horse; you can’t fault him.”
Wings of Eagles hails from one of Montaigu’s most well-known families. The four-year-old is out of Ysoldina, a daughter of the stud's late stalwart sire Kendor who finished third in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches among several top-class performances in black-type races. She is also the dam of the speedy Listed-placed mares Torentosa and Gyrella, and is a close relation of Belle Et Celebre, Whortleberry and Appel Au Maitre.
Ysoldina is in foal to Siyouni and will visit Galileo this year. Her yearling filly by Kingman was sold to Meridian International and David Redvers for €750,000 at the Arqana August Yearling Sale in 2017.
Two years earlier it had been Wings Of Eagles’ turn in the ring. The colt, from the second crop of Pour Moi, went through the ring just five lots into the sale, when he was snapped up by MV Magnier on behalf of Coolmore for €220,000.
“He was a lovely yearling that we always expected to make a good price,” Forien remembers. “The female family has been incredibly good to us, and we were delighted at the time that he was going to such a good home”.
She adds of his subsequent Epsom triumph for Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien: “People said at the time that the Derby wasn’t a very strong renewal, but if you look back at the horses he beat, such as Cracksman and dual Classic winner Capri, it shows that wasn’t the case at all.
“In hindsight I’m very disappointed I didn’t make it to Epsom that day, but it was near the end of a busy breeding season and I was pretty exhausted. It’s a great shame.”
Together with her husband Gilles, who was for many years the Marquesa de Moratalla’s racing manager, Forien also stands France's champion National Hunt sire Martaline, Prince Gibraltar, Literato, No Risk At All and Night Wish.
“Wings Of Eagles, Literato and Prince Gibraltar are all Group 1 winners who were raised at the stud and are now standing here, which gives us immense satisfaction,” says Forien, who is the fourth generation of the Guerlain family – of cosmetics fame – to run the stud since taking over from her father in 1984.
“Martaline is restricted to 120 mares, and he has been fully booked for a while now,” Forien says of the source of Disko, Dynaste and Very Wood. “He has just turned 19 and covers top-class mares from England, Ireland and France. His results have been exceptional.”
Of the regally bred up and coming National Hunt sire No Risk At All, she adds: “He had a fantastic start with his first three-year-olds last year, which has included a Grade 1 AQPS winner and the Grade 2-placed juvenile hurdler Gumball in Britain.
“Prince Gibraltar has his first yearlings this year and a select group of his first foals were sold in December,” Forien says of the dual Group 1 winner. Of the eight sold, the highest price was for a colt named Celtic Prince, sold to Toby Jones for €23,000.
Group 3 Grand Prix de Vichy scorer Night Wish, also third in the Grosser Preis von Baden and the Preis von Europa, will have his first foals this year having covered around 60 mares in his first season.
In addition to Wings of Eagles, Montaigu also has a new recruit in Sebastien Defontaine, who was recently appointed as the stud's director following Tangi Saliou’s purchase of Haras de la Haie Neuve. Defontaine joins after two years at Indian Creek Farm in Kentucky, having also gained experience as a stallion handler at the Aga Khan Studs.
Returning to Wings of Eagles, Forien says: “We’re delighted with how he has let down; he looks like a stallion already as he has had time to mature since the Irish Derby. We will most likely send around six mares to him, including Shamiyra, the dam of last year’s Grand Prix de Paris winner Shakeel.”
The Medicean mare, herself a daughter of Prix de Diane heroine Shemaka, was bought for €190,000 by Gilles Forien in foal to Kendargent at the Arqana December Sale in 2014 from the Aga Khan Studs.
Wings of Eagles may have created a surprise last June, but with the right opportunities, he can be expected to make an excellent addition to the French stallion ranks that continue to strengthen with every year that passes.
Montaigu is open 10am to 5pm local time on the Saturday and Sunday of the Route des Etalons