The Carrère Family: a story spanning five decades and a production line that numbers half a thousand Purebred Arabians


The Carrère Family: a story spanning five decades and a production line that numbers half a thousand Purebred Arabians

The victory of Hadi de Carrère in the Prix Tidjani (Gr3 PA) has put the Dell'Ova family back in the spotlight. By a homebred stallion, and one bred/prepared in house prior to sale, the colt looks to have a bright future in the colours of Sheail Bin Khalifa Al Kuwari. Here Guy Dell'Ova reminisces on 50 years of breeding.

In France the history of the Purebred Arabian’s wasn’t written by those given to theory. Instead, its course was charted by the people of the land who bred their horses for racing, and this shaped the breed. In the south-west of the country names such as Larrieu, Koch, Watrigant or Boisseuil – to cite just four examples – are all synonymous with the training profession. This has a decisive bearing on the orientation of a breeding operation: for there is a correlation between successful outcomes in the breeding shed and detailed knowledge of the breeding stock in question. Guy Dell'Ova and his son Éric live on the outskirts of Toulouse and they straddle both universes, those of breeders and trainers. Over the decades, they have bred 566 PA horses (according to the Institut Français du Cheval et de l'Équitation database) on their own behalf and for their clientele.

Child’s Play. Guy Dell'Ova has been an Arabic speaker since his childhood. He said: "My grandfather was from Sicily and he emigrated to Marseille in the first instance. Later on, the French state offered aspiring settlers the following incentives to go to Algeria: a hectare of land, a pair of black boots and a shovel. So he crossed the Mediterranean. I grew up in Algeria, having been born to French parents. Most of my classmates spoke Arabic and I picked up the language when walking with them to school. I left my country of birth in 1962 at the age of 15. We arrived in France without any money as we left everything behind in Algeria. Subsequently, we made our way to Carrère and took up residence at a farm in the Toulouse region. Initially, it was a cattle farm. Virtually penniless when growing up as an adolescent, I tried to make ends meet by selling donkeys and horses but only on a small scale. As a youngster, I weighed 55 kg (8st 9lb) and rode in those rough and tumble races prevalent in the middle of nowhere in Algeria. That's where I discovered the PA horse. The affinity was immediate. When you start riding Arabian horses, it's difficult to switch to other breeds. I've never been tempted by English thoroughbreds. I dabbled with a few trotters... but it didn't last. My particular niche was the PA horse and racing. We reached the point during the course of time whereby we were annually breeding 15 mares to stallions for our own purposes."

The Catusse influence. Guy Dell'Ova served his training apprenticeship with René Catusse, who was based at Toulouse racecourse after serving his formative years with the Biancone family. The latter trained horses for the big provincial stables (the names of Fustran, Jardel, and Grefeuille spring to mind), in addition to the Haras de la Gastine, Jean-Pierre Dubois and Daniel Wildenstein. His best horses were Zig (Val d'Aoste), the winner of eight races and second in the Copa de Oro (a Gr2 race at the time); Ironie (Iron Duke), a dual winner of the Prix Panacée (L); D'Janizid (Tidjani), the winner of five races and second in the Derby des Pur-Sang Arabes at Chantilly; and Youngui (Lightning) whose eight successes included successive wins in the Prix de Brétigny (Évry) and the Prix Prédicateur (L) (Saint-Cloud). It should be noted that René Catusse's results were quite exceptional at a time when provincial trainers rarely tended to chance their arm in Parisian black-type races.  At the end of his career, and in his capacity as a private trainer, René Catusse settled near Casablanca, where he enjoyed many successes, both with English thoroughbreds and PA horses.

Keeping it in the family. In the beginning, Guy Dell'Ova personally trained his own horses in the Forest of Buzet, before handing over the reins to his son Éric. He added: "Sharing the forest with the other users of this particular ‘massif’ [editor's note: geographical feature] was difficult. Some people simply couldn't abide the signs we associate with the presence of horses, and the fact that that we harrowed the forest trails. Nevertheless, it was an exceptional environment, and the tranquillity was very soothing for the animals. My son therefore decided to train at Toulouse racecourse, which is about half an hour by car from here. He has always been familiar with PA horses. After riding out for René Catusse as a schoolboy, he rode and won a lot of races in France and Britain. One day, he expressed the desire of wishing to work for his parents. The Carrère Stud is a family business, and one we’ve all worked very hard to build up over the decades. There are times when we’ve had up to 120 horses at the stud. We’re a little lighter on numbers now... Nevertheless, we endeavour to keep mares of good temperament, and those which have shown a certain quality on the racecourse. I don't mind if their racing careers weren’t lengthy ones, as that ensures that they aren’t worn out by their competitive efforts prior to embarking on their secondary careers. We try to ensure that the horses are reared in such a way that they remain outside for as much as possible. We don't wish to wrap them in cotton wool."

Adapting to the market conditions. Bibi de Carrère (Djourman) has topped the sires’ list in in the United Arab Emirates, and he’s one of the stud’s best known flagbearers abroad. Guy Dell'Ova continued: "The great difficulty is to keep hold of the good horses in order to sustain the quality of the breeding operation. The history of the stud reveals that we’ve sold many stallions and mares which have gone to prove very successful with other French and foreign breeders. We were short of money and needed to generate capital. To keep the stud going, you need to be resigned to selling, including those prospects that you would otherwise wish to keep with an eye to the future. Soon after the breeding operation first saw the light of day, we very soon began to attract foreign buyers. We initially sold to Oman before branching out in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which was the destination of Bibi de Carrère after he was acquired by His Highness Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan acquired him. Italy, too, proved to be another market for us, and Rubis de Carrère (Elaborat) stood at the Sardinian ‘national stud’. The latter, in tandem with Royal de Carrère (Mad Oua), helped put the stud on the map internationally

The current market is, of course, a more difficult place than it was a few decades ago. This is quite normal as all the big Arab owners now have their own breeding operations. They also produce good horses. However, it’s still possible to make a living by breeding PA horses in France provided you are a horseman, conversant with breeding methods, and have horses with good pedigrees. The very good horses are easy to sell. Although there’s also a market for those horses which are a notch below this level. »

The great Nevadour. This particular name has acquired a global reputation. For Nevadour (Ourour) features in the pedigrees of an astounding number of great PA horses. The mare was born in the Gers region at the stud of Jean Bacquela, and the latter later sold her to Guy Dell'Ova in the early 1980s. The mare produced two foals for the Carrère concern, Salia de Carrère (Baroud III) and the future stallion Rubis de Carrère (Elaborat), before being sold again, this time to Alain Benarrous and Renée-Laure Koch. Guy Dell'Ova recalls:  "Jean Bacquela was a tough businessman but he was very principled. I bought a certain number of his horses, including Nevadour (Ourour), plus her daughter and grand-daughter, Nerva du Cassou (Baroud III) and Danie du Cassou (Dahr): three mares whose achievements in the breeding shed remain considerable. One day Alain Benarrous came to the stud farm. It coincided with Nevadour again demolishing the fencing, which led to the other horses around her also getting loose on a public road. Out of frustration, and being very angry at the time, I subsequently sold him this great broodmare, and also parted company with her daughter Salia de Carrère (Baroud III). I also acquired Laida du Cassou (Baroud III) from Jean Bacquela. She, too, hailed from the Nevada II (Djanor) line, in common with Nevadour." Nevadour went on to produce no less than nine foals at the Haras du Maury. Her daughter Salia de Carrère, born in 1984, died on June 24th at the stud of Renée-Laure Koch. Numerous descendants of Nevadour have won at Gr1 PA level and a list that is by no means exhaustive includes: Nevadour Al Maury (Kesberoy), No Risk Al Maury (Kesberoy), Nouba Al Maury (Kesberoy), No Problem Al Maury (Dormane), Mister Ginoux (Amer), Lady Princess (General), Easter de Faust (Mahabb), Kerra (Kesberoy), Lwsail (Amer), Parador (Dormane), Kerjam (Dormane), Al Mujahaz (Hafid Du Bac), Nizam (Amer), Al Fatith (Amer), Rasheeqah (Amer), Samaa (Majd Al Arab), Fanfan de Carrère (Djourman), Dahess (Amer), Muntasar (Majd Al Arab), Nivour de Cardonne (Manganate), Sivit Al Maury (Akbar), Sylvine Al Maury (Munjiz), Nez d'Or (Dormane), Noreen (Dormane), Nirwan (Dormane), Rajeh (Jaafer Asf), Mkeefa (Amer), Chaddad (Mared Al Sahra), Naphir (Al Sakbe) and Kaolino (Dormane)…

The (other) gems of Jean Bacquela. Hailing from another bloodline (one from the Pompadour broodmare band), but still bearing the imprint of Jean Bacquela's breeding, Jina du Cassou (Baroud III) also made her mark both at the ‘Carrère’ stud and on French breeding.  She went on to produce: Vanessa de Carrère (Manganate), the winner of the Dubai Stakes (Gr1 PA), and placed in the Coupe d'Europe du Cheval Arabe; plus the Abu Dhabi International Stakes (Gr1 PA) third Baccara de Carrère (Djourman). Jina du Cassou’s descendants include Hakim du Bac (Manganate), the Prix Dragon hero, and Hafid du Bac (Djourman): the winner of Triple Crown Round I, Round II and Round III.

Guy Dell'Ova spontaneously cites the name of Ben de Carrère (Djamel) when it comes to nominating the best horse that he’s bred, and the horse’s photo proudly adorns his living room. He won in France before being exported to Oman. The latter is a grandson of Samba (Baroud III), another mare to have been sourced from Jean Bacquela. She produced Volcano de Carrère (Djourman) and Anita de Carrère (Manganate), the respective winners of the Prix du Président des Émirats Arabes Unis (Gr1 PA) and the Abu Dhabi International Stakes (Gr1 PA). Her descendants include Areem (Mahabb), the winner of the National Day Cup and the Al Maktoum Challenge (Gr1s PA), and Jalnar Al Khalidiah (Tiwaiq). Guy Dell'Ova added: "Nearby to where Jean Bacquela lived, I came across Guetlato (Grabiec). She belonged to Jacques Hostier. He went on sell me this particular mare from an Algerian bloodline. This is the family we readily associate with Hadi de Carrère (Nieshan). I went into partnership with Pierre Labaize and he’s a very honest person. Guetlato’s foals are born at the stud but they carry the "du Bac" affix." This line is responsible for generating: Nadir du Bac (Guytou de Carrère), third in the National Day Cup (Gr1 PA); Oualid du Bac (Guytou de Carrère), the Bani Yas Al Hadheerah (Gr2 PA) second; plus the high class Akim de Ducor (Akbar) and Hamana (Goumri), the foundation mare of the Mels breeding operation.

Decades of stallion management. Guy Dell’Ova explained: "Together with my son, we’ve invariably owned stallions either outright or in partnership during the course of the last few decades. I owned Baroud III (In Chaallah) in partnership with Jean Bacquela. We eventually brokered a deal whereby we exchanged him for a mare belonging to Claude Baxerres. We decided to let Baroud III go after a few years as our young broodmares were effectively his daughters. Furthermore, it was at a time (mid-1980s), when the market wasn’t geared to selling large numbers of horses. This dictated that you needed to tailor the size of your breeding operation accordingly. Baroud was a smallish, bay horse and one with a typical French head. He was very good looking. He was unraced… as he invariably unshipped every jockey that attempted to get on his back! Further down the line, Coq du Cassou (Baroud III) came my way and he shared the same sire and dam’s sire: Baroud III! I was attracted to his breeding page but he didn’t deliver at stud. We acquired Djouras Tu (Manguier) as the ‘Haras nationaux’ [editor's note: the body that once ran a number of French regional studs] no longer had a need for his services. We went on sell him but he was to die after being exported to Algeria. Other acquisitions were Guytou de Carrère (Manganate), Scoubidou de Carrère (Djouras Tu) and Djebel du Bac (Djourman). The latter, a son of Guetlato, was born at our stud. Our two resident stallions, Nieshan (Akbar) and Samir de Carrère (Royal de Carrère), were similarly foaled here! Furthermore, my son pooled his resources with other breeders so as to acquire Kerbella (Kesberoy) when the ‘Haras nationaux’ went into liquidation. Scoubidou de Carrère is a source of big regret. A dual Group winner, including the Prix Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan - Carthage - Hannibal (Gr2 PA), he was the victim of an accident, as he got loose when the apprentice riding him was on his mobile phone. The six-year-old subsequently died after colliding with a car."

The breeder added: "Samir de Carrère made a good start to his career as a three-year-old. However, he went on to experience problems which required an operation. This took its toll as he hasn’t been the same since. So he covered very few mares and only two of his progeny, including Cobalt de Carrère (Samir de Carrère), have raced in France. The latter has been exported to Morocco where he won the Grand Prix de Son Altesse Royale le Prince Moulay Rachid. The quality of his offspring has convinced us to send him more mares."

The Nieshan tale. "Nasser Alhabtoor is officially the breeder of Nieshan but the horse in fact grew up here. My son trained the horse to win four races and finish second in the Coupe de France and the Prix Manganate (Gr1s PA). He was subsequently sold to race in the UAE where he carried the colours of Ali Haddad. A triple Gr1 PA winner there, he was also second in the Dubai Kahayla Classic after dividing Séraphin du Paon (Akbar) and No Risk Al Maury (Kesberoy). We continued to monitor his progress as he was somewhat of a great favourite at our yard. Then, one day, we received a phone call from the owner and the gist was: as things stand, you need to take the horse back. For he was born at your stud and so that’s where he must stand as a stallion. His first foals were born in 2016. Although his first sizeable crop was born a year later (2017) when 34 foals first saw the light of day. These are his current crop of 3-year-olds. His foals are very good looking and they’re active types but without being difficult. From the outset, we set his stud fee at a very reasonable rate: €1,000 (live covering) and €1,500 via the artificial insemination process. So breeders can make ends meet it’s necessary that stallion fees remain affordable for all. Only three runners from Nieshan’s second crop (the 2017 cru) have graced the track, including the PA Group winning Hadi de Carrère and Rahi (Nieshan). The latter was exported after finishing third on his debut." Nieshan has also generated winners in the UAE as denoted by the examples of Alazoum and Alnawar.