The Montjeu colt Motivator won the Stg84,100, Group II, Dante Stakes (2000m) at York on Thursday, in his 2005 season debut, by 1 1/2L over The Geezer.
Motivator, ridden by Johnny Murtagh and trained by Michael Bell, raced keenly in the early section of the race, but then stretched out well to win going away, although he did drift sideways through greenness over the concluding stages.
Falstaff, also by Montjeu and owned by the Coolmore connections Mrs Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor, was third, 4L behind The Geezer, the time 2.16.17 on the soft track.
This is just the third race days start for Motivator, already a Group I winner at two, and he becomes the favourite for the Vodafone Derby at Epsom, now quoted at 3-1 by bookmakers.
Motivator is owned by 230 members of the Royal Ascot Racing Club who pay Stg5,000 per year subscription for the syndicate’s horses managed by Harry Herbert.
Herbert’s Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Syndicate brought Distinction to Melbourne last spring for the Melbourne Cup. Distinction, a big Danehill gelding, finished sixth under Darrren Beadman.
Herbert told The Racing Post, “This is way the best horse we have had. To see this horse work in the morning it sends an absolute chill down your spine so it is such a relief to see him win like the exciting horse we always thought he was.”
Murtagh, winner of two Derbys, was also impressed.
“He is still a bit green but it’s only his third race and I think he will improve a lot for the run,” the jockey said.
“I’m very excited about him. His staying power will make this fellow a top class horse. I thought he was more a mile and a half horse. He has all the right credentials. He’s won the Dante, which is a great test. He has everything in the right place at the moment and has a great chance.”
Montjeu, sire of Vodafone Derby favourite Motivator, at Windsor Park Stud, Cambridge, picture Rob Burnet.
Tattersalls reports that Motivator was purchased by John Warren on behalf of the The Royal Ascot Racing Club for 75,000 guineas at Part 1 of the 2003 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale.
Motivator is one of six Group/Listed winners from the first crop of six time Group 1 winner Montjeu, himself a dual Derby winner, and is out of the Listed winning Gone West mare Out West. Consigned from Salah Fustok’s Deerfield Farm outside Newmarket, Motivator is the third foal of racing age out of Out West, and his Montjeu yearling own brother looks set to be one of the highlights at the 2005 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale Part 1, (October 4th – 7th).
Runner up The Geezer, by Hailing out of the Be My Guest mare Polygueza, purchased for 21,000 guineas for owner Jeff Smith at the 2003 Tattersalls December Yearling Sale by trainer David Elsworth, will be hoping to improve on the fourth place finish of the same connections’ Norse Dancer in the 2003 Vodafone Derby after a highly creditable second, while third placed Falstaff was a 230,000 guineas Tattersalls Houghton Yearling purchase.
Earlier in the afternoon the regally bred All To Beautiful, a 1,100,000 guineas own sister to dual Derby winner Galieo, stamped herself as a filly with a great future when winning the Group III totepool Middleton Stakes for the Magnier/Tabor/O’Brien juggernaut.