Two weeks ago this slot looked at the burgeoning stud career of Chichicastenango, sire of recent Hong Kong Cup winner Vision D'etat. That grey stallion, now based in Japan, is one of a dwindling band of Grey Sovereign-line sires worldwide. Another stallion from that line who has been responsible for a regular flow of good winners recently was the 1994 Melbourne Cup winner Jeune, who sadly died of a heart attack at Collingrove Stud in Victoria in January 2006 at the age of 17, writes John Berry.
The success of Jeune’s stud career is food for thought for those who subscribe to the illogical belief that stamina is detrimental to a horse’s stud prospects. Even those who adhere to the old Aga Khan’s dictum that the qualities to look for in a racehorse are “speed, speed and more speed” would be unwise to regard stamina – ie the ability to maintain speed over longer distances – as a drawback. Bascially, speed and stamina are two sides of the same coin, that coin being the ability to gallop effectively. In fact, one is of little use without the other, and they are certainly not mutually exclusive, a fact which Jeune demonstrated fully during his racing days.
It is a sad fact of modern life that nowadays the majority of potential stallions are subjected to very light racing careers. This state of affairs is regrettable because it means that not only do racegoers see little of the horses who should be seen the most often (ie the best ones) but also that breeders have to take the soundness of future stallions on trust - the fact that a horse has been able to retire to stud sound after a couple of seasons of infrequent racing being, of course, far from proof that the horse in question would be able to withstand a rigorous racing career. Durability and soundness are, of course, very useful attributes for any stallion to be able to pass on to his stock, and Jeune’s racing career proved that he was as well blessed with these qualities as he was with both speed and stamina.
Bred at Wyck Hall Stud near Newmarket by the late Sir Robin McAlpine, Jeune began his career under the care of Geoff Wragg in Abingdon Place in Newmarket’s Bury Road. He had the first of his 17 British races at Yarmouth in July 1991 when he made a winning debut in a juvenile maiden over six furlongs. A rise in class into Group Two company followed, which saw Jeune run a creditable second to Showbrook in the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury over the same distance. Jeune raced twice more at two, finishing third behind Casteddu in the Hyperion Stakes at Ascot and fourth behind Lion Cavern (who had finished second to Rodrigo De Triano in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket three weeks previously) in the Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury.
Having raced four times at two, Jeune raced eight times at three, for three wins: the Thirsk Classic Trial over a mile, the Predominate Stakes (Listed) at Goodwood over 10 furlongs (which he won by five lengths) and the Group Three September Stakes at Kempton over 11 furlongs (which he won by three and a half lengths). His placed runs included a good second in the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes at the royal meeting at Ascot, to whose 12-furlong course he returned the following month to run unplaced behind St Jovite, Saddlers' Hall and Opera House in Britain’s weight-for-age championship, the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.
Sadly, by the time that Jeune resumed racing as a four-year-old, his owner/breeder Sir Robin McAlpine had died. Jeune remained in Geoff Wragg’s stable, raced by Sir Robin’s executors, and he made a very pleasing resumption for 1993 at the Guineas Meeting at Newmarket when finishing third behind Zinaad and Apple Tree in a competitive renewal of the Jockey Club Stakes. His season followed a similar pattern as in 1992, including another good run at Royal Ascot (where he won the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes over a mile and a half) and another unplaced run against a great field (headed by Opera House, White Muzzle, Commander In Chief and User Friendly) in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. That proved to be Jeune’s final race in the UK because he was then bought by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum for export to Australia. Sheikh Hamdan had already won one Melbourne Cup with an ex-European stallion (1986 winner At Talaq, who had carried Sheikh Hamdan’s colours into fourth place in the Derby two years previously) and he had also won both the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Cup with horses whom he had initially raced in the UK: his 1989 Cox Plate winner Almaarad had started out with John Dunlop and his 1993 Caufield Cup winner Fraar had, like At Talaq, begun his career in Tom Jones’ Newmarket stable.
Jeune joined Fraar in the Lindsay Park stable in Angaston, South Australia, of David Hayes, whose father Colin had trained At Talaq and Almaarad for Sheikh Hamdan. A brief perusal of Jeune’s European record would no doubt have led Hayes to believe that he was taking on a sound, serviceable horse and he was not to be disappointed: Jeune raced 25 times for the Hayes stable, initially under David’s care and subsequently in the hands of David’s elder brother Peter, who stepped into the breach when David went to train in Hong Kong in 1995.
Jeune made his Australian debut in May 1994 in South Australia’s premier sprint, the Group One Goodwood Handicap. He was unplaced in that, but ran better under a big weight in a sprint handicap at Cheltenham three months later. That proved to be his final start in South Australia as he then headed for the Melbourne Spring Carnival. He thrived there, recording a win in the Group One Underwood Stakes over 1800m at Caulfield and minor places in the Group Three Craiglee Stakes (1600m), the Group One Caulfield Stakes (2000m) and, finally, the Group One Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) three days before accomplishing his mission by landing the Melbourne Cup over 3200m, carrying third top weight of 56.5 kilos and beating the Caulfield Cup winner Paris Lane by 1.75 lengths.
Jeune then headed to Tokyo to run a creditable sixth in the Japan Cup (2400m) 26 days after his Melbourne Cup victory. Hayes spelled him after that, and the horse was freshened up so well that, when he resumed for the autumn at Sandown in February, he won the Group One C. F. Orr Stakes over 1400m, breaking the track record by running 1:21.1! Thereafter his autumn continued profitably as he ran consecutive Group One second placings in the Futurity Stakes (1400m) and the Australian Cup (2000m) in Melbourne and in the Ranvet Stakes (2000m) and the BMW (2400m) in Sydney. He then signed off for the season by snaring his fourth Group One, winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick. Unsurprisingly, at the end of a season which had seen him win Group Ones at weight-for-age over 1400m, 1800m and 2000m and under handicap conditions at 3200m, Jeune was voted Australia’s Horse of the Year.
Jeune remained in training for one more season and, although he couldn’t repeat his feats of the 1994/’95 campaign, he still won the Craiglee Stakes at Flemington and ran an excellent fourth in the Cox Plate. He duly retired to Lindsay Park Stud, just as At Talaq had done before him, in time for the 1996 breeding season. While Melbourne Cup winners in general do not have a good record at stud – not least because so many of them are geldings – the qualities shown by a Melbourne Cup winner are certainly ones which, if passed on to his offspring, should ensure that he sires plenty of winners. Especially if the Melbourne Cup winner is as tough and versatile as Jeune had proved himself, and especially if he possesses a classy pedigree, which has been the case with the three recent northern hemisphere-bred Melbourne Cup winners (At Talaq, Kingston Rule and Jeune) who have done well at stud. A son of the grey 1982 King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes winner Kalaglow, Jeune was not a typical Grey Sovereign-line horse (not least because he wasn’t grey, and also because, like his sire, he stayed well) but, even so, the fact that he was from this line was a credential in itself, particularly as the line’s popularity had recently been consolidated in Australia by the likes of Kenmare and the ill-fated Adraan. Furthermore, the merit of the family from which Jeune sprang is best summed up by the fact that, when he won the Hardwicke Stakes, Jeune was not the only son of his dam Youthful to win at that year’s Royal Ascot: his younger half-brother Beneficial (now a successful National Hunt sire in Ireland, responsible for the 2009 Grade One-winning steeplechaser Cooldine) had won the King Edward VII Stakes three previous days previously.
Just as Jeune had proved himself adept across the distance spectrum as a racehorse, so as a stallion was he able to sire winners at all distances. One of his early winners was the precocious two-year-old sprinter Pompous (whose pedigree had ‘Lindsay Park’ stamped all over it, his first and second dams being by Without Fear and Grey Sovereign's grandson Estaminet respectively) who won the Debutant Stakes (Listed, 900m) at Caulfield on his debut in October 2000. Pompous was from Jeune’s second crop, but a better horse had come from his first: the filly Lolita Star, winner of the Group Two Wakeful Stakes at Flemington in 2000 five days before running third in the Group One VRC Oaks. Also from Jeune’s first crop was the super-tough Party Boy, whose 75 starts yielded nine victories, including the Group Three Tasmanian Derby in March 2001.
Jeune’s best horse, though, came from his third crop. Born in 1999, Mummify was another tribute to the Lindsay Park stallion roster, having At Talaq and Without Fear as the sire of his first and second dams. He proved a true star, as brave as his father and nearly as good. Having opened his Group One account with a victory in the South Australian Derby in May 2003, Mummify went on to win two more Group Ones later that year (the Underwood Stakes and the Caulfield Cup) before posting an even more notable triumph the following spring, beating Grand Armee and Starcraft at weight-for-age in the Group One Yalumba Caulfield Stakes. In 2005 he triumphed internationally by beating Phoenix Reach and Alexander Goldrun in the Singapore International Cup, and when he was put down minutes after finishing an extraordinarily brave third to Railings and the Japanese raider Eye Popper in a three-way photo for that year’s Caulfield Cup, it was true to say that a great horse had been killed in action.
Since the emergence of Mummify, Jeune has been further represented by the Group One winners True Steel (winner of the Kingston Town Classic over 2000m in Perth) and Young Centaur (victorious in last year’s Wellington Cup over 3200m in New Zealand). At the same time he has consistently churned out masses of winners despite never being favoured with elite mares: he ended last season in fifteenth place on the Australian sires’ list by individual winners (85) and in eleventh place by races won (154). This year Jeune (whose final crop are now three-year-olds and who were conceived at Collingrove Stud in Victoria following Jeune’s relocation there as a result of the rationalization of the bloodstock empires of the Hayes and Sangster families) has been responsible for six individual stakes winners, the most recent being Impressive Jeuney, successful in the La Trice Classic in Perth on Boxing Day. The best of Jeune’s 2009 winners has been Alcopop, whose impressive victory in the Group Two Herbert Power Handicap at Caulfield (over subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Shocking) ensured that he vied for favouritism in the Melbourne Cup 17 days later, a race in which he ran very well despite appearing to fail to stay the two miles.
The premature death of Jeune was, therefore, clearly very sad, because we lost not only a great and beautiful horse but also a very good sire. Even after his death, though, he is still doing plenty to keep the Grey Sovereign line in the headlines.