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New intake of French stallion talent is a true tour de force

Martin Stevens looks at the trend of top colts retiring to Normandy

Zarak: the son of Dubawi and Zarkava will join the Aga Khan's Haras de Bonneval roster in 2018
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Another announcement of a top-class colt retired to stud in France on Monday: this time Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere scorer Ultra, who will stand under the Darley banner at Haras du Logis. By my reckoning that makes seven Group 1 winners who have so far been confirmed as starting their stallion careers in the country next year – including a European champion in Almanzor and a Derby hero in Wings Of Eagles – compared with just six in Britain and Ireland combined.

There will, of course, be many more retirements announced between now and the start of the 2018 breeding season and that imbalance will likely be redressed; and the British Isles are not exactly lacking in high-profile newcomers, with the likes of Galileo Gold, Postponed and Ulysses already added to rosters.

But the new intake in Normandy next year is really quite staggering in its star quality. Almanzor and Wings Of Eagles will not be the first champion or Derby winner to stand in the region, as it already boasts Authorized, Motivator and Manduro; but that trio were all sent across the Channel as plan B after starting out in Britain or Ireland.

That Almanzor and Wings Of Eagles are retiring straight to France, along with Al Wukair, Our Ivanhowe, Ultra, Zarak and Zelzal, is a huge coup for the country's breeding programme. As is the fact that Reliable Man – whose first-crop son Erasmus won one of Germany's most prestigious two-year-old races, the Preis des Winterfavoriten, by eight lengths on Sunday – and another top-notcher in Toronado are being transferred to Normandy from other countries, with neither making the move as a contingency.

It is not even as if the French stallion ranks were deprived of talent before the present recruitment drive. They already held Le Havre, source of the dual Classic heroines Avenir Certain and La Cressonniere in his first three crops and on the mark with this month's Shadwell Turf Mile winner Suedois; the immensely exciting Siyouni, who supplied Friday's Fillies' Mile scorer Laurens; the rags-to-riches Kendargent; one of the most talked about freshmen this year in Dabirsim; Almanzor's sire Wootton Bassett; and the still unproven but strongly supported young champions Olympic Glory and Shalaa.

Things were not nearly so rosy less than ten years ago after the loss of big-hitters such as Anabaa, Highest Honor and Linamix. It has been a remarkable reversal of fortune, thanks in part to Al Shaqab Racing choosing to base its well-funded racing and breeding operation in Normandy, the continued ascent of Haras de la Cauviniere (now Montfort et Preaux) and the country's lucrative system of owners' and breeders' premiums.

That robust health in the French stallion herd should, in theory, initiate a virtuous circle. Local boarding studs will benefit from the influx in mares being sent to be covered; the value of local breeders' stock, being by more coveted sires, will increase; and the subsequent upturn in revenue generated by selling those better-bred horses can be reinvested in better broodmares and, to keep the wheel turning, new sire prospects who are more consistently of a higher calibre.

A bright future, then, for stallion masters in France. But bleaker reading for those in Britain and Ireland, especially those who are outside of the big conglomerates and already struggling to enlist independently owned colts.

STALLIONS NEW TO FRANCE IN 2018

Almanzor
Stud Haras d'Etreham
Profile 3 x Group 1 winner, European champion

Al Wukair
Haras de Bouquetot
Prix Jacques le Marois winner

De Treville
Haras du Thenney
Group 3-placed son of Oasis Dream and Dar Re Mi

Our Ivanhowe
Haras du Thenney
4 x Group 1 winner in Germany and Australia

Reliable Man
Haras du Thenney
Prix du Jockey Club winner, sire of Erasmus and Narella

Toronado
Haras de Bouquetot
Sussex Stakes and Queen Anne Stakes winner

Ultra
Haras du Logis
Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner

Wings Of Eagles
Haras de Montaigu
Derby winner

Zarak
Haras de Bonneval
Group 1-winning son of Dubawi and Zarkava

Zelzal
Haras de Bouquetot
Group 1-winning son of Sea The Stars


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It is not even as if the French stallion ranks were deprived of talent before the present recruitment drive
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