The Haras du Bosquet: the best kept secret of the South-West


The Haras du Bosquet: the best kept secret of the South-West

Whether it’s on the flat or over jumps, the horses bred at the Haras du Bosquet continue in excellent form. It’s our intention to trace the history of this stud, which is currently under the care of Véronique Laborde and Bruno Thierry.

The Purebred Arabian Majd'Or (Majd Al Arab) confirmed his introductory promise on June 18th by taking third in the Qatar Coupe de France des Chevaux Arabes (Gr2 PA). He has also changed ownership and trainers. The colt began his career with Didier Guillemin, having previously carried the colours of his breeders, the Haras du Bosquet. He has since joined the yard of Thomas Fourcy, and now races in the silks of Sheail Bin Khalifa Al Kuwari. Two days later (June 20th), the Didier Guillemin distaffer, Genmoss (Gentlewave), stamped her authority on the Omnium des Anglo-Aeabes à 12,50 %. It marked her 11th consecutive success and she remains unbeaten in as many starts. Only one horse in the history of modern French racing has a better record. If we rewind to the mid-1990s, we will discover that Gloria IV (Video Rock) was retired to the paddocks following a 12-race unbeaten record. Genmoss is certainly the only horse capable of eclipsing this milestone. Furthermore, he has until November to achieve this!

The origins. It all began in the middle of last century when Jean Laborde, the son of a school teacher, converted a farm into a stud, which was to become the Haras du Bosquet. This part of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques is one of the best kept secrets of rural France. To the north of Pau, the Béarn region has proved to be exceptional territory for ‘breeding’ horses, and the climate there is particularly propitious. Before assuming the aura of the strong man of the South-West, Jean Laborde started out with a single mare bought at a fairground. As is often the case in this region, he began his equine odyssey with an Anglo-Arabian horse. Although her name has long been forgotten. A little more than a decade after his death, it’s difficult to visualise the importance Jean Laborde had in the racing scene at the time. He ran two studs, one in the South-West and the other in Normandy, and the elected official was appreciated by all at a national level. A promoter of numerous English thoroughbred stallions, he also acquired the reputation of being a very astute businessman. After breeding several Group winners on flat, Jean Laborde helped inspire the numerous dreams of the breeders. An Anglo-Arabian race bears his name, as does an event for PA horses!

The current division leaders of the Anglo-Arabian studs. The first Anglo-Arabian mares at the stud included the renowned La Cigale II (Kesbeth). The mare was born in 1956 in the Dorat region at the establishment of Robert Bapt, who combined the roles of doctor, breeder and local councillor with that of occasional horse dealer. This breeding page (Kesbeth ex Vlan (Lotus VIII) and particular racing family were at the forefront of the development of the equestrian sports and racing sectors, and it proved to be something of a common trait in the Anglo-Arabian world. This particular line was to yield several good horses for Bapt, and namely Xylène (Farceur VIII), Hylène (Fantaisiste II) and Israël (Fantaisiste II): three stallions which left their imprint on equestrian sports’ scene in the Adour region. However, it was at the Haras du Bosquet that this particular bloodline really took off, as it was to become one of the most coveted ‘racing’ lines of the Anglo-Arabian Stud-Book.  El Soprano (Concertino), a grandson of La Cigale II, was to prove an exceptional 3-year-old. For it was at that age that he was to win six of his eight starts, including the Prix du Ministère and the Omnium. The 1980 generation was of the highest calibre, as in the race known as the ‘Grand National’ [editor's note: for Anglo-Arabians] he beat a future heavyweight sire, Roseau d’Or (Fayriland II). The latter also set new a record (Anglo-Arabians) after clocking the fastest sectional time over a kilometre the following year. Didier Guillemin has ridden and trained some of the very best horses of this breed and, in 2016, he said of El Soprano: "He was a crack performer and I was on board when he raced. He was in the class of Illusion Sauvage (Solid Illusion) and Benevolo de Paban (Lavirco). » The Haras du Bosquet also produced Cherco (Lavirco) from this line. He was to prove the best 3-year-old on the flat and he went on to win at Auteuil over jumps, when accounting for purebred English thoroughbreds. In the 2014-18 period, this ‘line’ yielded three winners (including Genmoss) of the Grand Prix des Pouliches, the equivalent of the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) for Anglo-Arabians. This doesn’t take into account the victory of Manitopark (Walk in the Park) in 2019. The latter, from another bloodline, was later sold as an Irish jumping prospect to Simon Munir.

From "Anglos" to "Arabians". Until the 1980s, the breeders in the South-West made their mark via the Anglo-Arabians breed, particularly as the market for PA horses had yet to develop. The various studs under the ‘Haras Nationaux’ umbrella, battled it out with the Japanese when it came to acquiring the best male stud prospects. This explains why El Soprano, in common with the best performers of his era, was whisked off to stud in Japan. In the early 1980s, the stats reveal that the respective birth rates in Japan for English thoroughbreds and Anglo-Arabians were 7,500 and 3,400 foals per annum. However, the changes to the Japanese programme ensured the disappearance of the Anglo-Arabian breed from the archipelago in the early part of this century.

At present, Véronique Laborde and Bruno Thierry breed Anglo-Arabians to run in their colours. Their homebreds are sent into training with Didier Guillemin, and given a birth rate of three Anglo-Arabians per annum at the stud, they almost invariably produce some of the top performers each season. Without wishing to sound sycophantic, one can affirm that no stud has been as successful with Anglo-Arabians since the 1960s when Émile Lestorte was in his pomp. From the 1990s onwards and, with the market starting to take shape, the Haras du Bosquet turned its attentions to breeding PA horses, sometimes in partnership.

A 16 per cent strike rate in black type races. This explains how a long series of Group class performers were conceived and namely: Yatih (Tidjani): placed in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2; Mon Emma (Djel Bon): second in the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Gr3 PA); Kahzo (Dormane): the Prix du Président des Émirats Arabes Unis winner; Sakari (Al Sakbe): third in the Doha International Stakes (Gr2 PA); Neferman (Dormane): the Arabian Triple Crown Round 3 (Gr3 PA) runner up; Fly to the Gulf (Tidjani): second in the Prix Denouste (Gr2 PA); Ryan Giggs (Tidjani): second in both La Coupe Goffs France at Chantilly and the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (Grs1 PA); Bramatuero (Dormane): the silver medallist in the Prix d'Abu Dhabi at Deauville; Osaira (Tidjani): third in the Hatta International Stakes (Gr1 PA); and Carab (Majd Al Arab), who secured minor honours in the H.H. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al Thani Cup (Gr3 PA)… plus Majd'Or. A breakdown of the figures reveals that 11 of the 69 horses of racing age, which translates as 16%, have secured black type. This doesn’t take into account several good horses which were bred on behalf of clients, as denoted by the example of the Diane Waldron runner Fryvolous (Dormane) and winner of the: Dubai Kahayla Classic, the National Day Cup, the Bob Magness Memorial Derby and the UAE Equestrian & Racing Federation Arabian Stakes (Gr1s PA). Only one PA mare, Case d'Or (Dormane), is currently in residence at the stud. Thanks to Majd'Or, she has produced her first black type performer. She has a two-year-old Castair (Al Tair), a foal by the same Al Tair, before being bred to No Risk Al Maury (Kesberoy) this year. Bruno Thierry recalled: "This family arrived at the stud via the dam of Case d'Or. We’ve also reared the products of Cassels Céleste (Brusally Orsalin), a US mare, in tandem with Xavier Moreau. She has produced five black-type performers. Several of Case d’Or’s offspring have been exported and we’ve lost trace of them. We decided to send Majd'Or into training with Didier Guillemin... In the past, the Haras du Bosquet has been the home to PA stallions such as Djel Bon (Manganate), Arbor (Doktryner) and Vathek (Grojek)."

Also proving a hit in the jumping world. Although Véronique Laborde has bred several quality horses on the flat in the image of Katoleme (Katowice), the winner of the Copa d’Oro di Milano (Gr3), or Sekondi (R B Chesne), whose 18 wins in the US, included the Bay Meadows Derby (Gr3). However, despite this, this concern is more geared towards jumping. For the Haras du Bosquet is the birthplace of Virak (Bernebeau), whose 14 wins comprise the bet365 December Novices' Chase (Gr2); Mester (Tin Horse), the winner of the Prix Fifrelet (L) at Auteuil; plus the Prix Univers II (L) third Tsavo Ouest (Sendawar),

Bruno Thierry explained: "Things have changed a great deal during the course of a few decades. We don’t have the means to be competitive in the flat racing world. Our aim is to have few horses while placing the emphasis on quality breeding. We don’t have any staff. So we do everything ourselves and namely feeding, handling and mucking out, which isn’t easy on a daily basis. Happily, when the stud is doing well, as is the case at present, it proves to be very stimulating. During the current breeding season, we have sent 11 of mares to various stallions including one PA mare, two AQPS (Autre que pur-sang) mares including the dam of Virak, three Anglo-Arabian mares, and four jumping mares, including a full sister of

The latter mare was bred to Buck’s Boum (Cadoudal). We breed our jumping and PA stock with a view to selling them on. However, we race the Anglo-Arabians for our own purposes.

Yet, they need to develop into very good performers as we pay all their upkeep costs relative to keeping them in training. Our relationship with Didier Guillemin is a very good one. He’s a talented and honest professional. We’ve changed the way in which we rear our horses: and they are fed mash ever morning. By design, the numbers are reduced ones as this enables us to give each horse individual attention. In the evenings, the horses are fed a mix of crushed oats and barley. It couldn’t be more traditional as a form of diet. Véronique was born into the horse world. For my part, my roots are farming ones, and I used to run a restaurant in the Parisian region at Marnes-la-Coquette. The instructor, Jean-Marc Baudrelle, at a local riding school, also trained a few racehorses. Being a racegoer, I later became one of his owners in the 1980s.  Rambranlt (Reasonable Choice), one of the first horses of the partnership, landed the Prix Lutteur III (L) followed by the Prix du Président de la République (Gr3)… and this following a period as show jumper! »