Bobby Zen

Last year’s dual Group 1 winner Mqse De Sevigne (Ire) (Siyouni {Fr}) has already made her successful return to the racecourse this season in the Prix Jacques Laffitte and looks set to reappear in what could be a star-studded line-up for the G1 Prix d’Ispahan on May 26. In the meantime, her owner-breeder Baron Edouard de Rothschild will be represented in Sunday’s G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains by Alcantor (Fr) (New Bay {GB}), who was bought on the owner’s behalf as a foal by Nick Bell, manager of the Rothschild family’s Haras de Meautry.

“It started during Covid and we were slightly down on numbers of horses,” says Bell of the decision to supplement the homebreds with a few foal purchases each year. “I went to Arqana and we bought two foals that year, a Galiway colt called Cte d’Escarbagnas, who is a half-brother to Alenquer, and a filly by Roaring Lion. The next year we bought Alcantor. 

“It’s quite a good way to compare your own stock. I take notes every month and we weigh all the horses, so it’s quite interesting to compare yours with ones that you bought.”

Bell, who is soon to head off on an epic charity cycle ride to raise money for Au-Dela des Pistes, has managed Haras de Meautry for 17 years. The Normandy stud is closing in on its 150th anniversary. 

“The Rothschild family bought the land in 1875,” he notes. “At the time, Deauville was being developed as a holiday destination by the Duke of Morny among others.”

Now, the bustling seaside town is easily visible from the high paddocks at Meautry, which is situated in the heart of the outlying medieval village of Touques. It was at Deauville last summer that the stud enjoyed the twin highlights of Mqse De Sevigne winning first the ‘family race’, the G1 Prix Rothschild, followed by the G1 Prix Jean Romanet. After some thought, her owner took the decision to keep her in training at the age of five.

“We had a long debate,” Bell says. “If she hadn’t stayed in training, she might have gone for the Breeders’ Cup last year, but she would’ve had to take on Inspiral again. After the Prix d’Ispahan there could be a number of options. She could go to Royal Ascot, she could go to Newmarket for the Falmouth, or she could follow the same route and go to Rothschild-Romanet again.”

Mqse De Sevigne’s dam Penne (Fr) is now 21 and already has three of her daughters for company at Meautry. Both she and her dam, Une Pensee (Fr), are by Rothschild-bred stallions in Sevres Rose (Fr) and Kenmare (Fr). Sevres Rose, an unraced and lightly used son of Caerleon, died at the farm in March at the age of 31 with just 127 foals to his name.

“Penne, brilliantly, is in foal,” says Bell, and his relief is well justified as it’s not just Mqse De Sevigne who has advertised the mare’s talents. Penne’s first foal was the four-time Group 1 winner Meandre (Fr) (Slickly {Fr}).

“She went to St Mark’s Basilica after three years of trying with Siyouni. She’s 21 now and we wanted to go back to Siyouni and we tried and tried but she is a very tricky mare. She’ll come into season and go out of season very quickly and just show for a day.”

The Rothschild colours, or a variation of them, could also soon be seen back in England as Baron Edouard has struck up a partnership with his relation Nathaniel Rothschild, the 5th Baron Rothschild whose mother, the late Lady Serena Rothschild, raced the Irish Oaks winner Great Heavens (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) as well as that filly’s full-brother and fellow Group 1 winner Nathaniel (Ire). Great Heavens is already the dam of three black-type performers among her six winners, and her three-year-old will represent the Anglo-French familial alliance. 

“We have a partnership with Nat this year in a horse in William Haggas’s called Greatest Heavens,” Bell says. “She’s by Kingman and she was going to go to Book 1 at Tattersalls but Nat asked Edouard if he wanted to take a half-share. She’s yet to run but she’s a very nice filly.”

Another Kingman (GB) filly whose progress will be keenly monitored by all at Meautry is the yearling daughter of Esoterique (Ire) (Danehilll Dancer {Ire}), the mare who was her owner-breeder’s previous Prix Rothschild winner a decade ago and who later added the G1 Sun Chariot and G1 Prix Jacques Le Marois to her record. 

Now 14, Esoterique’s stud career has been fraught with frustration and she had produced only two colt foals prior to her longed-for daughter last season. She is now back in foal to Kingman and her two-year-old colt by the same sire, named King Esoteric (Fr), is, like Alcantor and Mqse De Sevigne, in training with Andre Fabre.

Alcantor with Baron Edouard de Rothschild, right | Scoop Dyga

 

Bell, who has been at Haras de Meautry since 2007, is itching for the stud to be involved with another Classic winner. 

“The thing that really gets to you about being here is the history,” he says. “You’re really only a caretaker for a while and you’ve got to make the most of it while you’re here. But you look back at what they had here, when it was an awful lot bigger than it is now, and the number of Classic races they’ve won, with horses all bred on this land. That’s the big thing for me now, that we have to win a Classic somewhere along the line. Esoterique was second in the Poule d’Essai.”

He adds, “The one thing I’ve noticed since I’ve come to France is that you used to be able to win a maiden with quite a moderate horse, and certainly if you went out into the provinces, you could win. Now it’s tough to win anywhere.”

While Alcantor, who was bred by SCEA du Grand Chene, was not born at the farm, he has spent much of his early life there and takes his Classic chance this Sunday having won last season’s G3 Prix Thomas Bryon – one of his three juvenile victories – and finishing second in the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud behind Sunway (Fr) (Galiway {GB}).

Bell recalls, “He was very impressive in the Thomas Bryon. Mickael Barzalona went up in his stirrups, practically waving to all his friends. From last to first, he was really impressive. In the Criterium, he was a bit unlucky because he had to come from behind and Sunway got the rail first and the ground was definitely better on the rail.”

A less happy time in the long history of Haras de Meautry will doubtless be brought to mind for some as the 80th anniversary of D-Day is celebrated across Normandy this June. During the Second World War, German soldiers were billeted at the farm, their graffiti still visible in the haylofts all these decades later. The Rothschilds’ homebred stallion Brantome, whose 12 wins included the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, was among hundreds of Thoroughbreds seized during the German occupation of France.

“The Nazis stole all the horses, including Brantome. He’d won the Arc and started his stallion career and they took him and all the horses to Germany. After the war, [Edouard’s father] Baron Guy and his father went and searched for the horses and repatriated them all,” says Bell.

“Deauville was very lucky because it wasn’t affected by the D-Day landings. But then you go to Caen and you go to Lisieux and places like that, they were just absolutely flattened.”

Ninety years after Brantome’s triumph in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains at Longchamp it would be fitting to see those distinctive Rothschild silks carried to glory once more.

“This time of year we’re all hopes and dreams,” says Bell.

 

The post Alcantor Aiming to Extend Meautry’s Classic History  appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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