Libero Mazzone: "Horses have given me everything"
He has widely been making the headlines in the media. For Libero Mazzone has created an outlet which manufactures Covid-19 facemasks. A veritable jack of all trades, and the recipient of several Lépine awards, he has perhaps devised the right formula for his great passion: the racing Purebred Arabian. He reveals himself in this interview.
The French Purebred Arabian. – How did you get involved in racing?
Libero Mazzone. – I dreamed of having horses when I was a kid. This came to fruition at the age of 25. It’s my belief that I’m one of the youngest owners to register his colours and race horses under his own name. I got going thanks to Saphir de Sinuhe (Tidjani). I was responsible for bringing him into the world, having acquired the dam Fionna des Pins (Naswan) from Didier Cabrol two years earlier. It was merely my intention to dabble in breeding, with one of two mares, just for my own personal pleasure. The particular Negus II (Zafiro) line – the sire of the dam of Naswan – very quickly produced five to six winners for me. 'Saphir' was earmarked for the yard of Jean-Luc Pelletan, whereas the other horses went into training with Jean-Pierre Totain. The aforementioned ‘winners’ were subsequently sold and continued to perform well on a variety of stages, both in the racing and endurance sectors. I continued to tap into this particular line which eventually disappeared, as international breeding became very selective, and that says it all, due to the predominance of the Amer (Wafi) bloodline. I therefore had to replenish my broodmare stock by acquiring (Martial Boisseuil was the middleman) the likes of Amidou Douzaia (Chéri Bibi). She was a 20 at the time and was coming off a barren run. However, she went onto to produce four subsequent foals, and three of these were winners. She has reached the ripe old age of 34 and is blissfully living out her days at my stud. I also trawled into the 'du Loup' bloodline after securing Majda du Loup (Majd Al Arab). She’s exceptionally well bred as her sire is a son of Amer, whereas the dam’s sire is Akbar (Djelfor), which we readily associate with one of the best French PA lines, that of Nevada II. To sum up, it’s an outstanding pedigree page.
However, the acquisition of Fionna des Pins could be described as lucky!
You could say it was beginner’s luck. The mare Fionna des Pins never raced, and although devoid of a racing record, this particular purchase went on to generate quality performers when bred to the stallion Tidjani (Flipper). Monsieur Flottes, the father that is, once said to me: "When you have found the right stallion to which to breed your mares, on no account should you change." I heeded his words by solely breeding my mares to this particular stallion and it worked like a treat. Following Tidjani’s death, I tapped into other bloodlines but the results weren’t the same. 'Fionna' is nearing her 30th birthday and is living out her days at the family stud.
What prompted you to get involved with PA horses?
I’ve always had a penchant for the PA horse because of its close rapport with man. The breed was already in evidence during the Napoleonic campaigns. Having grown up without my father, I can recall, as a child, watching ‘westerns’ and my surrogate father figures tended to be the likes of John Wayne, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson… in other words men on horseback! So I built up a picture at the time which equated good people with those having horses. So whereas certain children had their cuddly toys, I readily identified with the above characters and their steeds. Everything originates from an ideal and a childhood dream.
So the dream became reality…
Yes, nothing could be attributed to strategy. It was a sheer fluke that I became involved in the first place. As a result of a mating plan, Jean-Luc Pelletan subsequently came to see the resulting offspring before training it. After finishing third on his debut at Marseille-Vivaux, Saphir de Sinuhe went on to land the Coupe du Capitole-Critérium de Vitesse at Toulouse under François-Xavier Bertras. 'Saphir' was subsequently sold to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It proved to be a great venture and horses have given me everything that I have in life. Having had several ‘patents’ on the go, I was able to finance all of them from the proceeds which resulted from selling my horses. After Jean-Luc Pelletan, I came across a fantastic trainer, Jean-Pierre Totain. He was a very talented trainer of ‘Arabian horses. A great friendship was forged and, the fact that I was successful, was down to the fact that he was working with me, or rather that I was by his side.
Where are you based?
I own the Haras de Sinuhe which occupies a 14-hectares site near Marmande. My next broodmare will be Majda du Loup, as 'Fionna' and 'Amidou' have been pensioned off. 'Majda' hails from the Chéri Bibi (Baroud III) line: it’s a maternal pedigree of note which has been crossed with one of the lines of Amer. It has given rise to a very solid mare. She was keeping smart company when an unlucky seventh on her return. I believe that she will win a race in the coming weeks. Her pedigree is that of a late developer, she’s still a 4-year-old, and further progress is on the cards. Whatever happens, she will remain in my ownership. My current ‘horses’ were all ‘purchased’ and they will serve their purpose until such time as 'Majda' is retired to the paddocks. As I’m no longer in financial need, the racing side of things can wait. I no longer have a commercial outlook. I let the horses develop in their own good time with Thierry Lemer – his current trainer – whose way of working I greatly admire. I do it all out of passion. I’ve an affinity with my own horses. Yet, despite the fact that the racing scene isn’t my favourite aspect, I’ve always embraced the competitive element. The best thing about having horses is seeing them grow, and clinging to the dream, of one day having a high class performer with the ability to contest the Qatar Arabian World Cup (Gr1 PA) on the Arc de Triomphe card! It takes time but I believe that it will happen to me.
Your background reveals that you were an avid seller in the early days…
I didn’t have any money and my horses were winning! So when a bloodstock agent knocks at your door... My family beginnings were very humble ones, as I was the third born of my siblings, and my mother was a single parent, but, despite her ill health, she dedicated herself body and soul so as her children could get an education. After selling my first horses, I bought some land and built a house on this site for her.
However, you must have been tempted to hang on to certain fillies?
I’ve always been in the business of registering and exploiting patents. For the record, the costs involved range from €200,000 to €500.000 per patent. Although I’ve always managed to keep costs below the €300.000 mark. I’ve stumped up all the finance and have never received the slightest bit of help. Thanks to the proceeds from the first sale, I was able to create Laserfix, which is a hand-held laser device – and one designed to ensure that you drill straight! The monies raised from the sale of my second horse enabled me to launch PadXpress – a pro polishing system designed for cars. It’s a particular life choice. I’ve never been one for opulence because it’s not in my nature. The lure attached to gain and the venality of it all are similar turn offs. Having horses is akin to embracing the competitive spirit and is a way of life. Back home, in the midst of my 14 hectares, I’m find myself perched on top of an old tractor which dates back to 1960. My wheelbarrow, boots and pitchfork are invariably never far away. As for the rest, I don’t have care in the world. When I go racing, I adopt the style of [editor's note: trainer Arnaud] 'Chaillé Chaillé' (laughing). So I don’t wear a tie and couldn’t care less. When it comes to horses, we understand one another. For their mere expressions speak volumes. Even if we don’t express ourselves in the same way, we invariably speak the same language, and looks say it all.
The mere fact of having sold early and successfully exported clearly speaks to the quality of the brand…
It’s true that my horses have subsequently delivered on the track. The last horse I sold, Messine de Sinuhe (Njewman), went through the ring at the Arqana sales. A multiple winner in Qatar, he also finished fourth in the Late Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani Trophy - Qatar National Day Trophy (Gr2 PA). Regarding 'Saphir', he was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed who kept him for ten years. A winner on the British circuit, he went on to record a number of victories in endurance races. He was subsequently offered for to a Saudi Arabian Prince, and the latter won a 120 kms endurance race on him. The horse must now be a 20-year-old. So the ‘Sinuhe’ breeding academy has acquired a reputation. We’re certainly not talking about top notch performers, but rather ones that have made a good fist of their racing careers and given pleasure to people. As things stands, I’ve yet to produce a PA Group winner, but I know that my time will come. I take pleasure in seeing my horses in the mornings, which entails giving them carrots, having a cup of coffee with Thierry Lemer, and seeing the day to day running. One thing is for certain, horses have taught me to be patient, and to do things without expecting anything in return. You must hand over the reins to the people in the know, and mustn’t interfere. It makes for a lot of humility and causes you to question your own way of doing things.
Yet this success was to prove a real plus, and particularly so in a market place, namely that of the PA horse, which affords little headroom for average performers…
That’s true as I’ve had the good fortune of having ‘my’ horses, more often than not, finish in the first five. As things stand, there are many more races thanks to the financial backing provided by Qatar, and which is also down to the considerable work of the AFAC [editor's note: Association Française du Cheval Arabe de course] organisation. We have a lot to be grateful to them for. For their budgets have soared. In days gone by, a race of note would carry a purse of €2,000. However, nowadays, we have a race worth a €1,000,000! I have yet to win it, but it’s there, and it forms part of the racing calendar. It’s what drives the small breeder as young breeders have all fallen by the wayside. It becomes harder to compete with those stables which have 40 or 50 horses at their disposal, if fewer buyers are present. It’s either that or you need to have good horses (laughing). You need to be a dreamer and resist putting all your eggs in one basket, as regards ‘producing’ one single horse. Yet, there are still people like me around, without forgetting Michel Mezy or the Bourdette husband and wife team…The latter made the breakthrough four to five years ago after beginning their breeding programme 15 years ago. However, they eventually experienced that eureka moment after uncovering a magical breeding formula, and it’s hey presto as they say! This only happens to those that persevere. That’s what I say to myself.
Are you thinking of eventually handing over to the next generation?
I keep going because I have a boy of 10, and a 20-year-old boy, and they chime, "Dad, I wish to own horses when I’m big". To which I replied: "We’re going to tap into some good bloodlines, but will do so together". In any eventuality, it will end up with me, in the middle of my fields, alongside my horses and my stick.
Does your involvement extend beyond PA horses?
I have some English thoroughbreds and have dabbled with Anglo-Arabians in the past.
Monsieur Raffaello sold me the dam of Diego du Paon, an English thoroughbred mare, Daricta (Dictus), who went on to produce the jumping prospect Chance de Sinuhe (Pinmix). Adriana du Paon (Floriland Tounut) has generated Style Prospect (Diamond Prospect), the son of an ageing stallion Diamond Prospect (Mr Prospector). Style Prospect made a winning debut for trainer Bruno de Montzey. I managed to retrieve Meditative (Daylami). Hailing from an Aga Khan bloodline, I managed to buy her back from an English concern which was about to set up shop in Normandy. She had already produced the useful racemare Crystal Gazing (Diamond Green) –rated 36 in the French handicap. It was the sight of 'Crystal'
winning which prompted me to buy her dam. I have a juvenile filly in training, Sun Gazing, a full sister of Crystal Gazing, in training with Thierry Lemer.
What is your parting shot?
I owe Martial Boisseuil a great deal as he has always advised me very well. I have a great affinity for him, and he’s like a father figure to me. He called me again in the wake of Majda du Loup making her seasonal debut. He’s very rounded and very straight. His experience is extraordinary, He has retired and will be greatly missed. He’s done a lot for racing and, from a personal standpoint, the breeding patterns relative to my horses were masterminded by him. He is always calling me and we talk. He is very omnipresent and one can’t succeed in racing without the good offices of an expert. Failing that, we’re destined to remain baffled by it all. A complete novice is how I would describe myself. For I’m only following my gut instincts. I’ve had to learn the hard way but Martial was always there to support me. As for the horses I’ve sold, he has invariably been the one to make contact with the bloodstock agents. He wasn’t wrong.
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