How breeders and buyers have made the sire their first port of call
Martin Stevens on the French stallion going from strength to strength
One statistic in particular bears out how Prix du Jockey Club hero Le Havre has gained international recognition as a leading sire: last year in Britain and Ireland, not including France where he stands, he had 14 yearlings sell for a mean price of £113,000; that was up from eight sold for an average of just £39,000 in 2016.
Bring France back into calculations and the rise of Le Havre's popularity appears far more steady. For all European sales, he had 73 sold for an average of £78,500 last year; 53 sold for an average of £74,800 in 2016; and 15 sold for an average of £50,680 in 2015.
The sharp, sudden spread of Le Havre's popularity across the English Channel is attributable mainly to two factors.
First, those yearlings of 2017, freshly turned two-year-olds, were conceived at an increased fee of €20,000 (from €7,000) after his first Classic crop who raced in 2014 yielded Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and Prix de Diane heroine Avenir Certain, Prix Chaudenay winner Auvray, Listed scorers La Hoguette, Orbec and Summer Surprice, Prix de la Nonette second Crisolles and Listed-placed La Gohanniere, Saane and Suedois.
In the autumn of 2014 – in a remarkable vote of confidence – the China Hose Club, one of the biggest new spending forces in bloodstock at the time, paid €800,000, €720,000 and €600,000 respectively for Auvray, Crisolles and Orbec, who became the three most expensive lots at that most exclusive boutique for French horses in training with useful form, the Arqana Arc Sale.
At the company’s December Sale two months later, the same operation added Summer Surprice to its string for €420,000 as well.
No wonder, then, that breeders were not put off by the price hike and supported Le Havre with plenty of top-notch racemares and producers in 2015.
The second reason why vendors might have been more inclined to sell yearlings by the sire in Britain and Ireland last year, and why they were so enthusiastically received by agents and trainers in those countries, is that Le Havre's powers had recently been demonstrated under the noses of the domestic buying bench.
All those fine performances by his runners in France in 2014, plus the emergence of yet another dual Classic heroine, La Cressonniere, from his third crop in 2016, had ensured the sire was admired from afar; but the blossoming of Suedois as a top-class sprinter now under the care of David O'Meara, plus some creditable runs in Listed company for Richard Hannon's juvenile Tigre Du Terre last year, ensured the sire could no longer be considered only a local hero.
A spectacular pinhooking coup by Ardglas Stables on a colt – now a dual winner for John Gosden under the name Pouvoir Magique – bought at Arqana as a yearling for €15,000 and resold for a
sale-topping 300,000gns at the Tattersalls Guineas Breeze-up of 2016 will have done much to endear Le Havre to traders, too.
LE HAVRE – THE FACTS AND FIGURES
Pedigree 12yo b Noverre-Marie Rheinberg (Surako)
Stands Montfort et Preaux, France
2018 fee €60,000
2017 yearling average £78,500
Hence the clamour for the sire's yearlings beyond France's borders last year. Three were presented at the Goffs Orby Sale and all changed hands for an average of €141,000 thanks primarily to the sale of a half-brother to Listed winner Baby Foot to Sackville Donald for €310,000. Four were taken to Tattersalls Book 1 and they produced an average of 153,000gns, with Sackville Donald again poaching the priciest of the group, a half-brother to Prix du Moulin runner-up Akatea, for 325,000gns. Back at Park Paddocks for Book 2 a week later, another four found new homes for an average of 88,000gns.
Meanwhile, Godolphin helped themselves to a trio of Le Havre’s better bred yearlings at Arqana last year. The three – a colt out of Group 3 runner-up Holy Dazzle who cost €190,000, a colt out of Listed fourth Blue Blue Sea at €180,000 and a half-brother to exciting three-year-old Sacred Life at €97,000 – are in training with Andre Fabre for Sheikh Mohammed’s team.
Other two-year-olds of 2018 by the sire who illustrate the faith breeders placed in him after that glittering season with his first three-year-olds include the colt out of champion two-year-old Queen's Logic; the half-brother to Prix du Jockey Club hero Reliable Man, and the colt out of twice Classic-placed Glorious Sight.
That provides merely a snapshot of the many bluebloods among Le Havre's juvenile crop that numbers 136, which forms part of a well stocked arsenal for the sire in 2018. There is also Suedois, who as a gelding at the top of his form even at the age of six last year, should be in no hurry to be retired, and Rymska, a Listed winner at two for Pia Brandt in 2016 who has made hay since being switched to Chad Brown in the US – she was favourite for last week's American Oaks but was scratched late due to being lame; Grade 1 compensation surely awaits.
Another intriguing runner is the three-year-old Gratot, who is Le Havre's most expensive yearling ever sold at €520,000, despite him being conceived when the sire stood at just €7,000 – because he is a brother to La Cressonniere. The Derby entry is yet to race but is in the capable hands of John Gosden for Abdullah Saeed Al Naboodah.
And success should continue to breed success. Le Havre has 117 yearlings bred off a €35,000 fee and last year he covered a book of estimable quality at €60,000 a time in the wake of La Cressonniere's Classic double. Among the mares due to foal to him is none other than Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Jet Setting – owned by those early supporters of the sire, the China Horse Club, who bought the mare for £1.3m at the Goffs London Sale.
The Le Havre success story pays high tribute to his connections, who threw their weight behind him to give him every chance as a stallion by sending him numerous mares of their own and supporting his young stock at auction.
Indeed, five of the sire's seven Pattern winners to date have either been bred or raced by Le Havre's owner Gerard Augustin-Normand or the team at Montfort et Preaux (formerly Haras de la Cauviniere) where the stallion stands – and in some cases both bred and raced, as has been the case with the three top-flight winners Avenir Certain, La Cressonniere and Suedois at points in their racing careers.
The trick was repeated, miraculously, with the two other stallions they developed as Augustin-Normand bred and owned Air Chief Marshal's Grand Prix de Paris-winning son Mont Ormel, and Montfort et Preaux's Sylvain Vidal purchased Rajsaman's dual Classic-winning son Brametot as a foal for just €26,000.
What's the betting, then, that in this space in five years' time we are lavishing praise on Galileo's Group 3-winning son Recorder, who has joined the Montfort et Preaux roster this year, after the stud has also helped him to make an excellent start with his first runners, as studmate Le Havre has reaped the benefit of his better books and has more Classic and Group 1 winners under his belt?