Stéphane Chazel: the one man band of the French Purebred Arabian scene

30.03.2020

Stéphane Chazel: the one man band of the French Purebred Arabian scene

He is one of the key players of the French endurance scene in his capacity as bloodstock agent, rider and breeder. However, Stéphane Chazel is also a breeder whose horses have distinguished themselves at PA Group level. The ACA (Association Nationale Française du Cheval Arabe) president has also dabbled in the Arabian show scene in a professional capacity for a number of years, and with appreciable results as he ruled the roost as world champion in this sector for three years.

He’s also one of those rare breed of horsemen which have been involved in all sectors of the Arabian horse scene. He has raced horses in his own colours, however, it’s primarily as a breeder that Stéphane Chazel has made his presence felt in the PA racing sector. Diabolo Hipolyte (Nashwan Al Khalidiah), for one, captured the Grand Prix de Son Altesse Royale le Prince Héritier Moulay El Hassan (Gr3 PA) in November 2017. Still, on the Moroccan scene, Evrest Hipolyte (Nizam) was second in the Prix Mansour Dahbi (L PA). More recently, Goingfor Al Baraka (TM Fred Texas) was the silver medallist in the Prix Chéri Bibi (Gr3 PA) at Toulouse, in October.

The French Purebred Arabian. – Granted your standing in the endurance scene, what prompted your decision to branch out into the racing sector?

Stéphane Chazel. – I’ve always had a passion for the Purebred Arabian racehorse. There have also been many pathways linking these two worlds. Bakara (Baroud III) was my first

endurance horse of international renown. He was bred for racing – being a full brother to Chéri Bibi (Baroud III). I have always been an avid follower of the racing scene. It had reached a point around ten years ago whereby I decided to breed PA racehorses.

How did this diversification process get underway?

It began when I bought a mare Mantalo (Al Sakbe) at the Saint-Cloud sales. She produced my first Group PA winner, Diabolo Hipolyte. Pony Expres Hipolyte (Tidjani), hailing from one of the ‘Pompadour’ lines, won three PA races before becoming a high class endurance performer. Initially, as regarding my mating plans, I was of the opinion that a versatile pedigree page was called for when it came to training my horses to become endurance performers. That’s no longer the case as the resulting ‘crosses’ proved to be those which achieved least in terms of results. As the prowess of the best PA racing stallions doesn’t always translate to the endurance sector, although Tidjani (Flipper) was an exception to the rule in the past. The physical attributes of the progeny of Amer (Wafi), more often than not, don’t lend themselves to endurance racing, but, due to numerical reasons, there will always invariably be a few standout performers.

Goingfor Al Baraka hails from a generation of ‘TM Fred Texas’ performers which numbered a mere seven runners on the French scene. His has been a remarkable rise since then, although we didn’t see it coming at the time. Why did you choose this stallion? Furthermore, the pedigree of the dam of Goingfor Al Baraka could hardly be described as fashionable, granted the presence of Câlin du Loup and Vent des Sables in the distaff line.

I think that Vent des Sables (Chéri Bibi) was never really exploited to his full potential

despite being bred in the purple. He hails from the line of Fatzia (Ourour). Concerning he dam of Goingfor Al Baraka, Scarlet des Sables (Câlin du Loup), she has a quality which I prize greatly in the fields of racing and endurance contests: her pedigree page. Her breeding is exceptional. Again, the Fatzia line is again in evidence, although it’s not particularly noted for producing endurance performers.

I’ve always been a great fan of TM Fred Texas (Burning Sand) from a confirmation standpoint. I was also very familiar with his dam, Queen Kong (Kong), during my time in the US, where she really was something special. Alas, sending mares to the sire is no longer an option as his covering fee has gone through the roof. This year I intend to breed my mares extensively to Nieshan (Akbar). The latter proved a standout performer on the track, and he descends from the line of Fatzia, whom I have already mentioned a few times. I’m trying to play the pure French-bred card.

Goingfor Al Baraka was a buyback at Saint-Cloud sales, having gone through the ring as a juvenile. What has he achieved since?

The majority of my clients in the endurance sector also take an interest in PA racing. They often ask me to keep an eye out for any potential promising colts when I’m on my scouting missions. It is this which prompted me to diversify. I sold Goingfor Al Baraka privately a few months after the Saint-Cloud sale. The manager of the Qatari endurance team was the middle man. I leased the Qataris six horses for the World Equestrian Games, when a gold medal was up for grabs. We have remained on good terms ever since. They have acquired other racehorses through me. In France, my homebred Goingfor Al Baraka raced in the colours of Amjad Taiss Aljumaily after joining the yard of Charles Gourdain. The latter is a dab hand when it comes to training PA horses.

Goingfor Al Baraka was a very attractive colt. So why didn’t you race him in your colours?

He was a magnificent type but far too sturdy as regards developing into an endurance horse.

I had the joy of seeing my colours carried to victory by Via Hipolyte (Dahess). However, as things stand, I prefer to sell. It’s in that capacity that I’ve achieved my best results! It has enabled me to achieve a certain equilibrium. Occasionally, I keep some of my fillies with a view to sending them into training. This year, for example, I retained a daughter of Dahess (Amer) with the afterthought of eventually retiring her to the paddocks. In France, the race programme is by its very nature selective, and this invariably means that it isn’t easy when it comes to winning races on the ‘home’ stage. However, this very same selectivity underpins the attraction of our racing calendar and the French PA racing sector. I tend to breed three or four horses for racing each year, and five to six for endurance purposes. Contrary to when I first started out, the husbandry that accompanies the rearing process is the same across the board, regardless of the speciality. Goingfor Al Baraka, for example, spent his early days, roaming among the herd in the wide, open expanses of the Cévennes region. However, his diet was monitored.

Is it more difficult to train horses to win races on the racing circuits rather than endurance events?

No. In my opinion, the reverse is true. A considerable period of time needs to elapse before an endurance horse reaches the age at which it can start to deliver in terms of performance. Furthermore, anything can happen during this period. The impact of how a horse is trained is greater than in the ‘racing’ sphere. The racing types are either good or bad…but you can’t really improve them. In endurance racing, the combined efforts of the trainer and rider account for 50 % of the performance level. This particular discipline is still very much in its infancy and the disparities between those involved can be enormous. During the course of the next few decades, everything will have become professional. However, as things stand, a horse’s career is very much in the hands of the buyer.

In spite of globalisation, French-trained horses have tended to be dominant. Is this the case with endurance horses?

This is no longer the case. The Gulf states are currently the dominant presence.

Do you think that other endurance breeders’ could follow your lead by diversifying into PA racing?

Above all, it should be pointed out that the interests of some of the parties involved, Renée-Laure Koch, Marcel Mezy, Guy Barry, and so forth, have straddled both disciplines for a long time now. However, there needs to be an acceptance of the fact that each particular sector is highly specialist in terms of  pedigrees, whether it be PA racing, endurance or show contests. In the 1990s a horse by the name of Drug (Prizrak) made his mark at the highest level at both show and racing levels. That’s inconceivable nowadays and it will be even less so in the future. One of the latest ACA initiatives was conducting a forum which embraced the following topics and asked the questions: What is the future of the breed? How will selectivity evolve and which ‘selectivity’ tools will be employed in the future?

All manner of breeds evolve in relation to their needs and we can’t go against the grain. If a particular breed outlives its usefulness, the risk attached to its extinction is that much greater. Harping back to the 1960s, PA racing was almost wiped off the map due to a lack of races for the breed.

From an economic aspect, is it simpler for a breeder to reconcile the cost elements in racing or the endurance disciplines?

 I’m of the opinion that the’ racing’ market is the more buoyant, as it’s characterised by a greater variety of buyers. I’ve sold horses which have gone on race in the US, the Gulf States, Eastern Europe and the Maghreb, but there is no equivalent of this market in endurance racing nowadays.

Does your election herald a rapprochement between ACA and AFAC?

I’m really delighted that we will be showcasing the three ‘Arabian’ disciplines at one of the Vichy weekend meetings in the summer. In addition to French Championship for ‘show’ horses, the card will also host French championships for endurance horses when a horse’s physique and gait will be judged. This is additional to the PA races on the card. It’s a magnificent promotional tool and is a sterling example of the collaborative approach taken in conjunction with AFAC.