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French Thoroughbred Breeders

The Head of Affairs


The Head of Affairs

Last month, Cheryl and I headed off on a pilgrimage, not of the Mecca-variety, but to the home of the “high priest” of French racing and breeding. Our purpose was to pay homage to a relationship that stretches back almost 30 years, to a time when the fledgling Summerhill was embarking on its first major international ventures.




snow at normandy stud
snow at normandy stud

Winter montage at the stud farm of Xavier and Nathalie Bozo in Normandy

(Photo : Normandy Stud)

An early winter in France


Article By: Greig MuirIn a country where the Pyrenees and Alps are favoured haunts for many partaking in the sport of skiing, the winter has come as a delight. Much of the French landscape has been turned into a picturesque scene, with occupants, or as the French would say la citoyen de cheval on many of the major French Breeding farms finding the snow equally appealing.

Most of Europe has been hit by unseasonal early winters, which has turned the countryside into a winter wonderland. Weather conditions forced the postponement of weekend racing at Fairyhouse in Ireland, a meeting set to feature leading favourites for the Cheltenham Festival next year.



shalanaya aga khan studs
shalanaya aga khan studs

Shalanaya (Lomitas - Shalamantika)

(Photo : Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe)

“Please click photo to enlarge…”


We love these stories, especially when they apply to the underdog. In this case, though, the story belongs to the history of a very rich man. We wrote briefly last week about the origins of the Aga Khan’s success as a breeder, and the contributing sources of the excellence which manifested itself in seven Group winners at the two day Arc meeting in Paris last weekend, five of them at the highest level.

Remember, the “old” Aga bypassed the current Aga’s father in annointing his grandson Karim, as his heir, not only for the disposition of his worldly assets, but also as his successor as the spiritual leader of the Nizari Muslims.

In the process, as far as our interest stretches, he entrusted his own bloodstock, one of the finest collection the world has known, to the present Aga, reinforced with the broodmares of the Dupre family one of the most successful French studs of its time.

Some years after, when the Murty brothers, a couple of Americans of apparently dubious repute, launched a bid for the remnants of what was arguably the most successful breeding venture in French history, that of Marcel Boussac, “this” Aga solicited the intervention of the French government in thwarting the deal, and at £4,7 million, he “saved” these “gems” for the French bloodstock industry in general, and of course, for his own holdings in particular.

In 2005, on the premature demise of yet another legend of the French bloodstock scene, Jean-Luc Lagardere, by some distance their most successful breeder of the modern era, the Aga stepped up with a bid approaching €50,000,000, to secure what’s looking increasingly like the most successful lock-stock-and-barrel purchase in bloodstock in history.

In a sense, the purchase by Graham Beck successively of the stock of the late Archie Dell, the Scott Brothers, Highland Farms, the old Maine Chance and Noreen Stud, has its parallels in our own bloodstock lore, yet the outcomes that have accrued from The Aga’s seemingly limitless resources, might indeed (no, have indeed) been breed-shaping.

If you’re intrigued, read the next piece, an irresistible extract from an article entitled “The Aga and the Lagardere Legacy”, which while it takes a bit of reading, is a fascinating account of what led to the Aga’s celebratory weekend. We doubt this has ever been achieved in prior history, and while “never” is a big statement, we have doubts that anyone, including the Aga Khan, will ever aspire to the same again. Put this into the modern context, and the fact that racing has never been more competitive than it is right now, and you begin to get an idea of what happened at Longchamp last Saturday and Sunday.


The 2009 Arc weekend will inevitably be remembered first of all for Sea the Stars thrilling performance in the main event. Chased home by six other Group 1 winners, the son of Cape Cross became the new template for the ideal modern Thoroughbred : handsome and extremely sound, Sea the Stars is also blessed with an admirable temperament and truly extraordinary talent. He combines Classic speed with enough stamina to make him unbeatable over a mile and a half, and it has been a privilege to watch him develop into one of the all-time greats.

The other lasting memory of the Arc weekend must be the extraordinary sequence of success which saw the Aga Khan’s colors carried to victory in SEVEN group races, including five Group 1 contests.

The Aga has always been keen to introduce fresh blood into his studs, and he has reaped long-lasting rewards from his purchases in the late 1970’s of the sizeable racing and breeding empires owned by Madame Dupre‚ and Marcel Boussac. For example, he owed the success of Daryakana in the G2 Prix de Royallieu to a Boussac family.

The families originally founded by the Aga’s grandfather in the 1920’s also played their part in the weekend’s bombardment. Shalanaya, who sprang a surprise in the G1 Prix de l’Opera, comes from a female line which traces all the way back to the legendary Mumtaz Mahal, while Alandi, winner of the G1 Prix du Cadran comes from another branch of the same famous family.

However, the other four winners - Manighar (G2 Prix Chaudenay), Varenar(G1 Prix de la Foret), Rosanara (G1 Prix Marcel Boussac) and Siyouni(G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere) - all underlined the wisdom of the Aga’s purchase of the Lagardere horses and breeding stock in March 2005.

Jean-Luc Lagardere became the dominant force in French breeding, topping the breeders’ table no fewer than 10 times in the 11 years from 1995 to 2005.

Lagardere unfortunately died in March 2003 and his horses, including 62 broodmares and 74 horses in training, eventually passed into the ownership of the Aga. It didn’t take long for the Aga’s investment to start paying rich dividends, with Vadawina, Valixir and Carlotamix all becoming Group 1 winners in his colors in 2005.

That was also the year that two other Lagardere-bred horses became stakes winners for him. One, the Danehill filly Sichilla, won the Listed Prix Amandine over seven furlongs, and the other, the Linamix filly Rosawa, collected listed victories over a mile and 13 miles, having won her only start at two in 2004 for Lagardere’s successors. Sichilla and Rosawa have now hit the Group 1 jackpot at the first attempt, as the dams of Siyouni and Rosanara.

The purchase of the Lagardere stock got off to such a good start in 2005 that I wrote an article in the June 2006 edition of the British magazine Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder. In the process I interviewed Eric Puerari, whose father Claude bought one of Lagardere’s original foundation mares, Reine des Sables. It was one of this mare’s descendants, Resless Kara, which provided Lagardere with his first Classic success, in the 1988 Prix de Diane. Another Classic winner followed in 1990, when Linamix triumphed in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains. This grey son of Mendez later confirmed his talent when narrowly beaten in the Prix Jacques le Marois and Prix du Moulin, before retiring to Haras du Val Henry at a fee of FF100,000 in 1991.

Linamix’s pedigree did little to encourage outside support. His sire Mendez had sired nothing else of similar quality in two seasons in France, before being sold to Japan, and Linamix’s broodmare sire Breton wasn’t exactly a household name either.

If Linamix was going to make the grade as a stallion, it was going to be with the help of Lagardere’s broodmares, and this meant that Lagardere was going to have to buy quite a few mares. Linamix, of course, went on to become the best stallion in France, helped tremendously by Lagardere, who bred 14 of the 15 group winners in Linamix’s first five crops. Among them were five Group 1 winners, including Sagamix (Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe), Fragrant Mix (Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud), Amilynx (Prix Royal Oak) and Slickly (Prix du Moulin and Grand Prix de Paris).

Lagardere’s success with Linamix was based substantially on mares bought at the sales, often for relatively modest amounts in the U.S. His main ally at the sales was Eric Puerari, and I asked him to explain the system which helped them buy so many good mares: “We looked for mares which were well-made, strong and muscular, which weren’t too big,” Puerari explained, having pointed out that Linamix was quite a lean individual.

“M. Lagardere would make his own choices at the sales,” Puerari added. “He knew pretty much what he wanted. I started going round the sales with him, but then he couldn’t come all the time. Year after year he was coming less, so he would give me the list of mares and fillies whose pedigrees he liked, and we would then talk about the conformation and make a decision.

“He would follow his own rules all the time and he wouldn’t overpay. He would always prefer to buy four or five fillies or mares that he liked, than to overpay for a very special mare. He would play the numbers. Every year he would cull six or seven mares that were either disappointing or getting old, and buy six or seven new ones. He would always renew his blood, every year.

“M. Lagardere especially liked American blood because of the speed and of the bloodlines. He loved the Mr. Prospector bloodline, especially to mate with Linamix. He had a format for the type of a mare he would like to buy. The sire of the filly was important and so was the broodmare sire. The family was important too, but it could be a bit far back - it wouldn’t bother him too much if the other signs were right. He also liked a daughter of a good racemare, even if she was a bit disappointing herself.

He preferred a mare with useful form. In America he would look for performance but not on the grass, only on the dirt. And, with very few exceptions, he preferred unproven mares which had not been tried at stud.

“You can see from the mares we bought that he had a good memory for Classic bloodlines, which he learnt from going around the sales with Francois Boutin. For example, he liked the fact that Saganeca, dam of Sagamix, descended from La Mirambule. He also liked the Bayrose family.

“He wouldn’t mind a mare which had a little bit of a gap under the first or second dam, if she was by the right stallion. That’s how we bought quite a few of those mares cheaply. If he liked a filly physically - if she had some strength and looked athletic, with the head of a racehorse - he was prepared to compromise a bit on some limb defects. When I went to Keeneland without him, I was trying to buy him correct horses, but he was not very, very strict on conformation. He liked a good-looking mare with scope, and that was more important.”

Puerari later added that all the mares bought would be bred to Linamix in at least her first three years.

“He didn’t like to overspend on stud fees. He would use proven stallions more than young stallions, but wouldn’t pay crazy prices. He wasn’t influenced by fashion or using the most fashionable stallions.”

The purchases certainly made their mark at the Arc weekend. Manighar - a son of Linamix - is out of Mintly Fresh, a Mr. Prospector-line mare bought for $60,000 in 2001. Mintly Fresh’s Linamix filly Minatlya, was also a group winner and has now joined her dam in the Aga’s broodmare band.

Varenar, who sprang a 20-1 surpise in the Prix de la Foret, is out of Visor. This Turfway Park winner by Mr. Prospector cost $65,000 in 1992. She had five foals by Linamix, all winners, including a Group 3 winner and two Classic-placed performers.

Visor’s three winning daughters are now all members of the broodmare band.

Moving on to Rosanara, her second dam Rose Quartz was bought by Puerari for 42,000gns as a three-year-old in 2000.

This daughter of the remarkable Lammtarra had won a maiden race over 13 furlongs for Sheikh Mohammed and was very well-connected. Her dam, the Mr. Prospector mare Graphite, was a sister to the GI Hollywood Starlet Stakes winner Cuddles and Rosanara’s fourth dam Stellarette was a smart half-sister to those notable broodmares Love Smitten and Kamar. Rose Quartz has three foals by Linamix, the first being Rosanara’s talented dam Rosawa.

And Siyouni’s dam Sichilla is out of the tough American mare Slipstream Queen.

This daughter of Conquistador Cielo cost $110,000 at the 1995 Keeneland January Sale. Transferred immediately to France to visit Linamix, she produced the highly talented Slickly as her first foal, and later produced two group-placed colts to the same stallion, plus No Slip, a Grade II winner in California, and the listed winner Sichilla.

Artistique, another Linamix mare out of a Puerari purchase, is the dam of Montmartre, who looked such an exciting prospect when he won the 2008 Grand Prix de Paris. It’s a similar story with Sagamix’s good sister Sage et Jolie, whose son Sageburg won the G1 Prix d’Ispahan last year.

Expect to see many more examples in the coming years, as the Lagardere bloodstock, with their diverse bloodlines, helps strengthen an already highly powerful operation.

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News


urban sea
urban sea

Urban Sea

(Photo : Irish National Stud)


In horse breeding, the great mare (or stallion) is as elusive as the needle in the haystack. While most of us like to believe we’re on the scent of one, truth is they are as much a product of happenstance as they are of design. Such a mare is Urban Sea.

The progeny of Urban Sea, who died earlier this year at the age of 20, have landed many of the world’s most prestigious prizes, but until Sunday none had emulated their mother by winning the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. That changed when Sea the Stars went postward in Europe’s richest turf race as the heavy favorite.

Although she remains one of the most influential broodmares in modern history, the story of Urban Sea had humble origins. French breeder Michel Henochsberg needed only approximately $55,000 to acquire her dam Allegretta (GB) (Lombard), who was in foal to Irish Castle, at the 1984 KEENOV sale.

I wanted to buy [Alegretta] because she was quite a good performer,” said Henochsberg, the former chairman of the French and European Breeders’ Associations. “She was second in the [G3] Oaks Trial Stakes at Lingfield. She ran in the Oaks, but she was quite nervous - she was on her toes - and she didn’t perform well. She was sold to the United States, but she didn’t do much there, and they put her in the sale in foal to Irish Castle.”

It wasn’t just Allegretta’s racetrack performance that caught Henochsberg’s attention.

She was out of a fantastic German family that was not fashionable at the time,” he said. “I knew the main bloodlines in Europe, including those in smaller countries like Italy and Germany. This mare was coming from the “A” family, where the mares’ names start with the letter “A”.

“It’s the blood of the stud Gestut Schlenderhan.”

Her first three foals were unremarkable, with handicap horse Irish Allegre (Irish River {Fr}) being the best of the lot. That all changed when Henochsberg decided to send Allegretta to a son of Mr. Prospector.

[Irish Allegre] was a decent horse, but he was not brilliant,” he said. “The entire German family consisted of stayers, and I wanted some Mr. Prospector blood. At that time, he represented speed, at least for Europeans. Miswaki was a good performer in France, and he was a winner at seven furlongs.”

“[Miswaki] was starting to become quite highly regarded in the United States, as he was standing for $40,000 at Walmac Farm. Miswaki was not a big horse. Allegretta was a big mare - workmanlike.”

Getting a season to Miswaki wasn’t easy, but Henochsberg was able to obtain one from then bloodstock agent Barry Weisbord. The resulting foal was a chestnut filly.

“[Urban Sea] had a good structure and a good frame,” Henochsberg recalled. “She was not unfurnished, but she was not the most pleasant yearling. She was a very good walker and a good athlete.”

Like all other horses bred by Henochsberg at the time, she was sold at auction.

Henochsberg set a reserve of FF280,000 (about $50,000) when he offered her at the Deauville Yearling Sale, and she sold for that exact price.

“One bid less, and I would have kept her,” he noted.

Henochsberg admitted Urban Sea’s racing success surprised him, as she took the 1993 G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe en route to being named France’s highweight older mare at 11-14 furlongs.

“As a two-year-old, [Urban Sea] was nothing much,” he said. “As a three-year-old, she was a good group winner. At four, she became a champ. She was always very useful, but she improved. She had a big, big heart. She didn’t really have the structure to be a champion, but she wanted to win.”

Henochsberg, having missed the chance to campaign Urban Sea, attempted to buy an interest in her as a broodmare prospect.

“I had become friends with her current owner, Mrs. Tsui,” he said. “I proposed we make a partnership, breeding her on a foal share to Nureyev, who was one of the most expensive stallions in the U.S.

“We were very close to completing this deal, but she changed her mind.”

While fate worked against Henochsberg with Urban Sea, luck was on his side when he tried to sell Allegretta’s sixth foal, Allez Les Trois (Riverman). She failed to meet her reserve of FF550,000, and she would go on to win the G3 Prix de Flore and finish third in the G3 Saratoga Breeders’ Cup Handicap. As a broodmare, Allez Les Trois produced the 2001 G1 Prix du Jockey Club winner Anabaa Blue (GB) (Anabaa). Turbaine (Trempolino), also out of Allegretta, produced MGSW Tertullian (Miswaki) and GSW Terek (Ger) (Irish River {Fr}).

Allegretta saved one of her best runners for her later years when, in 1997, she foaled the eventual G1 English 2000 Guineas winner King’s Best (Kingmambo). Pensioned after coming up barren in 2000 and 2001, Allegretta died in 2005 at the age of 27. Despite having passed on, Allegretta’s impact on the breed has been guaranteed by Urban Sea, whose son by Sadler’s Wells, Galileo (Ire), has established himself as one of the finest young stallions in the world. Her son Black Sam Bellamy (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells) plies his trade in Germany. Stud plans for Sea the Stars have yet to be determined.

Henochsberg, a professor of economics at the University of Paris, credits Urban Sea for Sea the Stars’ brilliance.

“Sea the Stars looks like a typical Cape Cross or Green Desert,” he said. “He’s a very handsome colt with a lot of power, but obviously there is something inside that comes from Urban Sea. This mixture seems to be something great. I hope I’ll have another filly like her, but it’s very doubtful.”

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News

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gorella and xavier bozo
gorella and xavier bozo

Gorella and Xavier Bozo

(Photo : IBC/Summerhill)

Another two arrivals for this weeks “sports” include Xavier and Natalie Bozo, two of France’s foremost breeders, and now neighbours of Summerhill. Among many good horses, they are renowned for the fact that they bred one of the world’s top fillies, Gorella, three seasons back. They were part of the French breeder’s tour to Summerhill just over a year ago, and they were among the few who’ve believed our propaganda, to the degree that they recently acquired one of our neighbouring farms, a beautiful property with a good stretch of the Mooi River in its foreground.

Tomorrow we’re expecting one of the mainstays of the Irish racing and breeding industry’s, Dermot and Meta Cantillon, who make their maiden voyage to Summerhill after many years as clients. Apart from being one of Ireland’s most prominent horseman, Dermot also manages the thoroughbred affairs of the famed Smurfit family (of the Smurfit Kappa Group). Dermot’s wife, Meta, is a daughter of the Dubai World Cup’s first chairman and one of Ireland’s most famous vets and stud managers, the late Dr. Michael Osborne, who not only pretty much built Sheikh Mohammed’s Kildangan Stud in County Kildare, but his son Joe is Sheikh Mohammed’s present manager. Meta is a qualified veterinary surgeon in her own right, and they are here to brighten our lives over the weekend, including the stallion parade.

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SUNDAY SILENCE : The New Buzzword

sunday silence stallionSunday Silence
(Photo : Pagesperso-Orange)

Japan’s greatest sire, Sunday Silence, is making his presence felt more than ever in Europe, with another two sons due to stand there this season. Legolas is headed for France, as is Bourne King, a Grade Two placed maternal grandson of Sun Princess and a half brother to Japanese Derby winner, Fusaichi Concorde. They join Agnes Kamikaze, Great Journey, Millennium Deo, Samson Happy and Rose and Cavalier among other sons of Sunday Silence standing in France, and they follow the departure of Divine Light, sire of last year’s 1000 Guineas heroine, Natagora in his first European-bred crop. Divine Light was prematurely sold to the Turkish Jockey Club, a major coup for that jurisdiction.

What would South Africa give for a son of one of history’s greatest stallions? Watch this space.


urban seaUrban Sea
(Photo : Irish National Stud)

URBAN SEA, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine and mother to Sadler’s Wells’ best racing son and European leading Sire, Galileo, has died during foaling complications at the Irish National Stud. Urban Sea gave birth to a colt by Invincible Spirit who has been placed with a nurse mare.

The French filly, Urban Sea, was bred by Paul de Moussac’s Marystead Farm and was foaled in Kentucky in 1989. Her sire was Miswaki, a son of the highly influential Mr Prospector.

Urban Sea had a competitive racing career which started as a two-year-old in 1991 and included victories in the Prix de la Seine, Challenge d’Or Piaget, Prix Exbury (Gr3), Prix d’Harcourt (Gr2), Prix Gontaut-Biron (Gr3) and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr1), where she defeated fourteen Group 1 winners, before a fetlock injury retired her to stud as a five-year-old in 1994.

After retiring to stud in Ireland, Urban Sea was soon to became one of the world’s most successful broodmares. Her first foal by Bering, born in 1996, went on to win the 1999 Gallinule Stakes (Gr3) and her 1997 filly by Lammtarra was to fetch the highest price ever paid for a yearling at the 1998 Deauville Sales, a staggering EUR1,500,000.

Huge success began when Urban Sea’s owner, David Tsui, bred Urban Sea with Coolmore’s Sadler’s Wells, the result was a colt named Galileo. Galileo went on to win the Epsom Derby (Gr1), the first progeny of Sadler’s Wells to do so, the Irish Derby (Gr1) and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr1) before being voted European Champion Three-Year-Old in 2001. We all know the success of Galileo as a sire today.

Urban Sea was bred again to Sadler’s Wells resulting in Black Sam Bellamy, winner of the Gran Premio del Jockey Club (Gr1) and the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Gr1).

In 2002 Urban Sea foaled a filly by Giant’s Causeway, named My Typhoon, who went on to fetch a record US$2,955,000 at the December Tattersalls Sale. My Typhoon has subsequently won several US Stakes races including the Diana Handicap (Gr1).

The influence of Urban Sea on the world of thoroughbred racing has spanned almost two decades and the class of this broodmare will be sorely missed.

The Summerhill team extend our sincere condolences.

NB : On a positive note and of interest is to the local market is that Lot 483 on our National Yearling Sales Draft is a Malhub filly who comes from the female line of Urban Sea. The filly is a first foal out of Modraj (By Machiavellian) out of a half sister to Darley’s King’s Best and Urban Sea.

Click here to view the pedigree of Lot 483


xavier bozoXavier Bozo with his purchased Fantastic Light/Arctic Drift filly
2008 Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale
(Photo : Heather Morkel)

A year ago, the organisation which administers and markets French racing and breeding, France Galop, sent a delegation under the leadership of Elodie Garamond to South Africa with a view to exploring matters of mutual interest. Among the party were some of France’s most eminent breeders, including Xavier and Natalie Bozo, who hail in the male line from a long succession of outstanding French horsemen. Lest we should be accused of chauvinism, Natalie is a descendant of the famous Lanvin heritage, in her case the chocolate lineage made famous by one of France’s most celebrated artists, Salvador Dali, the man with the world’s most famous moustache.

The Bozos are best remembered these days for having produced in a single year two Group One winners in the form of America’s outstanding turf filly, Gorella, and the exceptional obstacles performer, Top Of The Sky. They run a spectacular boutique stud in Normandy, in the heartland of French breeding, and like them, everything at Elevage de La Source is immaculately managed.

They are with us for almost two weeks, and anyone they touch will tell you of their infectious attitude. There are no greater lovers of the horse, enthusiasts for the game, nor greater admirers of South Africa.

To cap it all, they were the buyers of the outstanding Fantastic Light filly we consigned last year to the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales, where they beat off stiff competition at R900,000 to secure the sister to the early favourite for Australia’s Golden Slipper (Gr.1). Judging by the progress she’s made since the sale, the Gary Alexander Racing Stable has something “proper” to look forward to.