One for the ladies

Fillies feature prominently amongst the growing success of Montfort & Preaux’s young sire Le Havre, says John Boyce.

This season has seen a surge in the fortunes of French sire Le Havre. He has amassed no fewer than nine Stakes winners already in 2019, which puts him among the top ten sires in the northern hemisphere by this measure. And, believe it or not, arguably his best performer is not even counted among the nine. Commes, a filly from his sixth crop, was desperately unlucky not to have got her nose in front in Sunday’s Group 1 Prix de Diane, having also run second in the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches five weeks earlier. 

Despite not getting a clear run, Commes (nearside) only just fails to catch Channel by a head in the Group 1 Prix de Diane.

Despite not getting a clear run, Commes (nearside) only just fails to catch Channel by a head in the Group 1 Prix de Diane.

Commes was bidding to emulate another pair of Le Havre Classic winners in Avenir Certain and La Cressonniere, arguably the two best runners so far by their sire. Both took the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches-Prix de Diane double in stellar early three-year-old seasons.

Le Havre’s love affair with Chantilly was actually ignited during his own short racing career in which he won four of his six races, culminating with victory in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club. Rated 124 by Timeform, Le Havre was the best sired by the disappointing Rahy stallion Noverre, whose plentiful supply of runners yielded only 4.1% Stakes winners. He is from the immediate family of Pivotal’s sire Polar Falcon and further back there’s another French Derby winner in the family in the shape of Sassafras, the colt who brought an end to the unbeaten run of successes by Triple Crown hero Nijinsky in the Arc de Triomphe. 

Though his sire was poor, Le Havre was a good-looking horse as his €100,000 yearling price tag suggests. All told, an as asking price of €5,000 for his first season at Haras de la Cauvinière (since renamed Haras de Montfort & Préaux) seemed reasonable, but wasn’t going to net him the best mares in the land. Then along came first-crop star Avenir Certain who remained unbeaten in six races to the August of her three-year-old campaign. Suddenly, the issue of a lack of quality among his mares was solved in one fell swoop.

That first crop went on to contain nine Group and Stakes winners, also featuring the 121-rated pair Suedois – winner of the Group 1 Keeneland Turf Mile – and Group 2  scorer Auvray. His fee rose to €20,000 in 2015 and to €35,000 a year later. And it was the emergence of La Cressonniere – who was undefeated in eight races – that prompted a further increase to €60,000 in 2017. His fee was set at €45,000 for 2019. It is interesting to note, that despite big increases in fee from 2015 to 2017, the number of foals from elite mares is very similar in each crop: 47 in 2015, 49 in 2016 and 48 in 2017, although there is evidence to suggest his more expensive crops are generally better bred. 

 

BLACK-TYPE WINNERS BY LE HAVRE

Form Name YOB Sex Dam Broodmare Sire
G1w LA CRESSONNIERE  2013 F Absolute Lady UP  GALILEO
G1w SUEDOIS  2011 G CUP CAKE W  SINGSPIEL
G1w AVENIR CERTAIN  2011 F Puggy WG2p  MARK OF ESTEEM
G2w AUVRAY  2011 G Ameyrah UP  IN THE WINGS
G2w ROMAN CANDLE  2016 C Holy Dazzle WG3p  SUNDAY BREAK
G2w POURVILLE  2016 F KENHOPE G3wG1p  KENDARGENT
G2wG1p RYMSKA  2014 F FOREIGN RAIDER W  LEND A HAND
G3wG1p ZGHORTA DANCE  2013 F ANA ZGHORTA W  ANABAA
G3wG2p QUEEN BEE  2012 F Pan Tadeus UR  KYLLACHY
G3w PLATANE  2016 F MODESTIE W  NAYEF
G3w NORMANDEL  2014 F LIDANA W  KING'S BEST
LRwG1p LA HOGUETTE  2011 F ISANOUS LRw  ZAMINDAR
LRwG3p ORBEC  2011 G Langrune WLRp  FASLIYEV
LRw BOITRON  2016 C Belliflore WG1p  VERGLAS
LRwG2p SAINTE AMARANTE  2012 F Loyal Lass P  CADEAUX GENEREUX
LRwG3p SEA FRONT  2011 F Freedom Herself UR  FREEDOM CRY
LRw AUBEVOYE  2015 C KEIRA W  TURTLE BOWL
LRw SUMMER SURPRICE  2011 F Summer Exhibition UR  ROYAL ACADEMY
LRwG1p OLENDON  2016 F TALEMA W  SUNDAY BREAK
LRw VICTORINE  2015 F LA MEZQUITA W  HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR
LRw URWALD  2016 C Waldjagd WG2p  OBSERVATORY
LRwG3p VOLSKHA  2016 F BALASHKOVA W  MONTJEU
LRw HAVRE DE PAIX  2012 F Bridge of Peace P  ANABAA
LRw CHERISY  2015 F CHERISH DESTINY LRwG3p  GRAND SLAM
LRw TRANSSYLVANIA  2011 F POLLIWILLINE LRw  MULL OF KINTYRE
LRw QATAR POWER  2013 F Brave Power P  ALDEBARAN
LRwG2p SOTTEVILLE  2013 F SANDSNOW W  VERGLAS
LRwG3p NOCE  2013 F SIMPLE SOLUTION W  DYNAFORMER
LRwG3p MASCHA  2015 F CALIMA MON AMOUR W  SHIROCCO
LRwG3p DIEGO VALOR  2011 C Summer Sea UP  BAHHARE

Avenir Certain made Europe’s breeders sit up and take note, so in one sense, Le Havre’s stellar season was entirely predictable. No fewer than 11 of his 15 Group and Stakes horses this year are from the mares he covered in 2015 after Avenir Certain’s Classic-winning season. They include three-year-old French Group winners Roman Candle and Platane, plus Japan Group 2 scorer Pourville. As well as the unlucky Commes, Le Havre’s Motamaris was third in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club and another daughter, Olendon, was second in the Group 1 Prix Saint Alary.

It won’t have escaped your notice that Le Havre relies heavily on his daughters to build his burgeoning reputation. For the record, as many as 22 of his 30 Stakes winners are fillies. For an emerging sire, Le Havre’s percentage of Stakes winners (6.7%) is perfectly respectable and well in advance of the 4.5% strike rate recorded by his mares’ runners by other sires. What’s really noticeable though is the bias towards his daughters: they have a Stakes winner-to-runner percentage of 9.7% from mares that normally produce 4%. His colts and geldings on the other hand have a strike rate of only 3.6% from mares that are normally capable of 5.2%.

The task facing Le Havre now is to find some Group 1 stars from among his better bred crops. He’s come very close in the French Oaks, but breeders will expect a championship horse or two over the next few seasons. And a top colt wouldn’t go amiss either.

About the author

John Boyce

John Boyce grew up on a stud farm and is a bloodstock journalist and former editor of Pacemaker and of The Thoroughbred Breeder. He has been part of the Darley/Godolphin team since 2001 as Group Marketing Head and then Group Head of Research. He is currently responsible for stallion and broodmare analysis to help the organisation’s stud, sales and marketing teams.

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