John Hammond feels “the time is right” to bring the curtain down on his long and illustrious training career at the end of this year.
Born in Kent, the 59-year-old has spent his entire career in France, having been based in Chantilly for the past 31 years.
Hammond told the PA news agency: “I can’t believe it’s 31 years, it feels more like 12.
“I’ve had a great time and I’ve been very lucky to have great owners, great staff and some great horses.
“It’s not a decision you make from one day to the next and I never intended to train forever.
“It feels like the time is right as I’ve got other projects I can focus on and a really good guy (Hiroo Shimizu) is leasing the yard.
“Hopefully he’ll keep a few of the horses to help him on his way.”
Hammond is best known for his association with the brilliant Montjeu, who he trained to win the French and Irish Derbies in 1999, as well as that year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The son of Sadler’s Wells was also an electrifying winner of the 2000 King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot before retiring to Coolmore, from where he went on to sire three Epsom Derby winners before his death six years ago.
Reflecting on that memorable King George triumph, Hammond said: “That was a very special day. I remember the morning of the race and seeing he was the 1-2 favourite or whatever he was – at times like that you do have to pinch yourself.
“There are moments when those very good horses are really at the top of their game and Montjeu certainly was that day.”
Montjeu was a second Arc winner for the trainer, having also landed Europe’s premier middle-distance prize with Suave Dancer in 1991.
The same horse brought Hammond his first Classic success – in the 1991 Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly under Cash Asmussen.
The American was also on board Montjeu in his Classic wins, before the colt’s switch to the part ownership of Michael Tabor – for whom Mick Kinane then mostly rode him in the Arc and beyond.
Kinane said: “I always enjoyed riding for John – and he did a very good job with Montjeu, because he definitely wasn’t the easiest horse to train.
“I always found him a very good man to ride for, and a gentleman.
“Winning the King George and the Arc (on Montjeu) are the two days that stand out.
“When Montjeu was at the top of his game, he was an exceptional racehorse.”
Other big-race successes for Hammond included Haydock Sprint Cups with Polar Falcon (1991), Cherokee Rose (1995) and Nuclear Debate (2001). The latter also won the King’s Stand and the Nunthorpe in 2000, while Polar Falcon also won the 1991 Lockinge.
“Montjeu was the best horse I trained over a mile and a half and I would say Suave Dancer was the best horse over a mile and a quarter. I was also lucky to have some very good sprinters like Polar Falcon and Nuclear Debate and they all gave me great pleasure,” said Hammond.
“I always enjoyed going back to Britain. Whatever problems there are with British racing, I always think there is something very special about it as the people just love their horses and are very knowledgeable.
“I never really thought about going back (to train in Britain) as I’d pitched my tent in France, was raising a family here and Chantilly is a great place to train.”