Back on the road

NORMANDY, France – Signs had accumulated two years of dust by the time they were removed to point to farms taking part in the Route des Étalons in France. The many stallions who took up stud duties in the northwest of the country last year have been deprived of the opportunity to show their credentials to a large number of breeders. There was, accordingly, a palpable sense of excitement as the doors were opened for the 2022 renewal of the iconic event. Although Covid restrictions didn’t allow it to be an all-sing and dance edition, seeing young studs in the flesh rather than through a computer screen sparked widespread interest.

Leaving Chantilly at dawn, with breed agent Tina Rau at the wheel and her pair of dogs in the backseat, we arrived at 9 o’clock sharp for the first show at the Haras de Bouquetot, after having given the companions to four paws a short walk beforehand. They call it German precision.

Bouquetot has yet to celebrate its first decade of activity, and yet it is one of the fastest growing stallion stations in France with eight stallions currently on the list. All except fresh arrival Armor (GB) (No Nay Never), are Group 1 winners, and two share the distinctive feat of clinching one of Europe’s most competitive mile contests in the G1 Prix Jacques Le Marois. The first harvest by Al Wukair (Ire) (Dream Ahead) included 15 winners at two and already two at three, including the recent first winner Hauran (Fr). Such a promising start brought his fee back to its initial level of €8,000.

Romanized (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}), who annexed the Marois on the back of a classic triumph in the Irish 2000 Guineas, has yet to have his first foal down but he was the busiest stallion at Bouquetot the year last with 127 mares. His starting bonus of €7,000 has been maintained and looks excellent value for money, as Al Shaqab Racing’s Sebastien Desmontils explained.

“Romanised is still 100% owned by Mr. Ng who ran it,” he said. “When the stud plans were arranged, we offered him to syndicate the horse, arguing that this would guarantee him significant support. Mr. Ng, however, was keen to remain the sole owner of Romanised, but he suggested that we give him a very affordable cover charge to make him an attractive proposition to breeders.

Another stallion awaiting his first foals is Wooded (Ire) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), who ended a long drought for France by winning the G1 Prix de l’Abbaye. He joined Almanzor (Fr) as the second son of Wootton Bassett to ride at stud in that country and, at €15,000, is Bouquetot’s most expensive stallion. He shares the limelight with the eye-catching Zelzal (Fr) (Sea The Stars {Ire}), who caused a sensation in 2021, thanks in particular to the exploits of her daughter Zelda (Fr), a Listed winner. He also boasts a 92% fertility rate and has seen his fees more than double to €6,000.

The latest addition to Bouquetot’s roster is former Richard Hannon manager Armor (GB) (No Nay Never), who won the G3 Molecomb S. last year and finished third at Middle Park. Still two months away from its real third birthday, the bay noir will be offered at €5,000.

“The plan is to try and replicate the success that Al Shaqab had with Mehmas. French breeders are always looking for speed and precocity, so we think this is a great proposition,” Desmontils said.

A little further in the Normandy countryside, the Haras de Bonneval is busy celebrating the 100th anniversary of the breeding of His Highness the Aga Khan. (Click for the excellent three-part article by Emma and John Berry: First part, second part, and Part III.) And could there be better publicity than the excellent performance achieved by Zarak (en)‘s first 2 years? After all, the mighty bay goes back, through his illustrious mother Zarkava (Ire) (Zamindar), to Zahra (Ire) (Habitat), the only daughter of the champion Petite Etoile (GB) (Petition {GB}), herself even a descendant of the “flying filly” Mumtaz Mahal (GB). One hundred years of breeding excellence summed up in a single pedigree.

Son of Dubawi (Ire), Zarak has so far 18 2-year-old winners, exactly the same number as his stablemate Siyouni (Fr) (Pivotal {GB}) made with his first crop. And his best foal to date is G1 Qatar Prix runner-up Marcel Boussac Times Square (Fr), who is rightly out of a daughter of Siyouni. Such eye-catching results had a major impact on the stallion’s value and he now commands a stud fee of €25,000, double his starting price of €12,000.

“There has been huge interest in Zarak,” explained appointments manager Fanny Cyprès. “He’s covered a full book every season, and for 2022 he’s been full since last October. Mares come from Germany, Ireland and the UK for him. Its value has increased quite dramatically, as shown by the evolution of its share price: when we syndicated it, a share cost €60,000, whereas in recent auctions on Arqana Online, shares were selling between €350,000 and €380,000.

All in the spotlight: Siyouni, now 15, remains France’s most expensive stallion at €140,000 and is expecting another stellar production of foals, including siblings from Sottsass ( Fr) and Dream And Do (Ire), as well as youngsters from Group 1 winners Watch Me (Fr) (Olympic Glory {Ire}), Kitesurf (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) and Stakes winner Zarkamiya (Fr ) (Frankel {GB}).

Cypress added, “We’ve seen with Times Square that Siyouni is starting to make his mark as a broodmare sire, and we think he can follow in his own sire Pivotal’s footsteps in that regard.”

Larissa Kneip’s Haras de Saint-Arnoult is steadily making a name for itself as a source of affordable speed, and she currently has six stallions who have all performed over medium to short distances. The beautiful Elarqam (GB) (Frankel {GB}) currently stands out as Frankel’s only son bred in France. The Group 2 winner will have his first foals on the ground this season and remains available at the attractive price of €5,000. The first harvest by Seabhac (Scat Daddy) is now 2 years old, while a juvenile Group 1 winner Mkfancy (Fr) (Makfi {GB}) is the new recruit.

Just a few minutes away, Julian Ince’s Haras du Logis is home to an impressive line-up of former Godolphin flag bearers, with the notable exception of the infamous globetrotter Tiberian (Fr) (Tiberius Caesar {Fr}). For the coming season there has been another extremely classy addition to the roster of the two-time Group 1 and Classic winner Victor Ludorum (GB) (Shamdal). The handsome bay has a special pedigree as he is not only by ‘Sire of the Bulls’ Shamardal, but also from Shamardal’s family – he is 3×3 inbred to Helen Street. Victor Ludorum’s placid demeanor and solid constitution secure him a solid backing at €15,000. Another popular young bull is Sheet of Stars (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}), whose first yearlings sold very well and whose cachet remains unchanged at €7,000.

Leaving Calvados for Orne, we reach Haras du Petit Tellier. The historic farm of Patrick Chédeville is the double winner of the Classic Gray Gatsby (Ire) (Masterscraftsman {Ire}), whose first harvest already has six winners and has made it one of the ‘talking horses’ of winter.

Returning to Deauville, we notice a sign indicating where the Greenwich meridian crosses Normandy. Indeed, this part of France should indeed follow GMT, and it’s no wonder the days are so dramatically short at this time of year, making the Route des Etalons an unavoidable scramble so that breeders try to see as many stallions as possible in a limited time. It’s a shame to have to give people like Persian King (Ire) (Kingman {GB}), Le Havre (Ireland) (Noverre), Galiway (GB) (Galilee {Ire}), Golden Horde (Ire) (Lethal Force {Ire}) or Flintshire (GB) (Dansili {GB}) a failure, and only minor solace comes from the existence of online stallion books.

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