In the space of 50 years, the PA horse has evolved the same way as the english TB over several centuries

In the space of 50 years, the PA horse has evolved the same way as the english TB over several centuries

He is one of the few bloodstock agents whose acquisitions have included numerous success stories in classic races, plus winners of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Melbourne Cup. For Gérard Larrieu, it all began with PA horses. It’s a breed that’s dear to his heart and one in which he maintains his involvement as an owner-breeder.


“My parents used to breed horses. When I was 14, the first horse I bought was a PA mare. Going by the name of Medica (Ourour), her name can still be found in the pedigrees of some smart performers and namely Darike (Dormane) – the sire of Azadi (Darike). This family enterprise continues in partnership with my brothers at the Haras de Saint-Faust. On the subject of PA horses, we can compete with the best. The quality of our stock has evolved considerably in that direction. As things stand our broodmare band numbers 20 PA mares. We also have English thoroughbred mares for the breeding of jumping stock. In these two disciplines, it’s not statistically impossible to produce a top-notch performer. Although it’s a more complex situation on the flat regarding Englishthoroughbreds. I’ve been involved in many areas of our industry, from training to foaling, plus stallion matings… However, my particular visiting card, and the one that has opened all the doors for me, is the PA horse. Without this, I wouldn’t have been able to develop professionally. I would certainly have done another job in the horse industry. The British often feel superior to the French on the matter of horses. However, we need to make the most of our strengths… and the PA horse is one of them!”


Easter de Faust

“Little by little, and in tandem with my brother JeanPaul, we built up our PA breeding operation by acquiring fillies/mares. The first mare for which we paid a significant sum, with the aim of turning her into a broodmare prospect, was none other than Gabie de Carrère (Manganate), and the grandam of the Qatar Arabian Trophy des Pouliches (Gr1 PA) winning Easter de Faust (Mahabb). A grand-daughter of Nevadour (Ourour), Gabie de Carrere has given us several black type performers. We received a large offer for the then 15-year-old mare and parted with her. However, in order not to lose this particular bloodline we kept two of her daughters: Vega de Faust (Munjiz) and Ayisha de Faust (Al Sakbe). Despite receiving offers, we have invariably kept these two mares. The victory of Easter de Faust, a daughter of Ayisha de Faust, is the reward for all the work done by the staff at the Haras de Saint-Faust. The French programme for young horses is a godsend spread out as it is over a sufficiently long period of time during the season, it means that we can refrain from pressurising our young stock. As it’s possible to give them the time to develop if they are on the backward side. Karmel de Faust (Akbar) was the top sire in terms of winners generated for many years in Russia.”


“It was John Ferguson who advised Richard Lancaster, who was working for the late Sheikh Hamdan at the time, to make use of my services regarding PA horses. Our collaboration began in the early 1990s. And it lasted until Sheikh Hamdan’s death. How many good horses did I buy for him? To be honest, I simply don’t know. From broodmares to racehorses, the list is a long one. Although I can draw on the notable examples of Al Saoudi (Nuits St Georges), who was coming off a big win at Deauville in the colours of Faiz Al Elweet, and Al Sakbe (Kesberoy). The latter was riding a seven-race winning streak at the time. Al Jakbar (Al Sakbe) was bought as a foal. Madjani (Tidjani) was acquired after making a winning debut as a 3-year-old for his then owner-breeder and trainer Pierre Hoyeau. He went on to become the champion we all know after winning the Kahayla Classic (Gr1 PA) three times!”

Commercial trends

“In the past, horses-in-training were much easier to buy. As it was possible to source proven performers who were coming off big wins. That’s almost impossible today as you have to acquire them increasingly earlieron. For a while, I bought horses-in-training before they made their debuts as in the cases of Ouragan du Cayrou (Dormane) and No Risk Al Maury (Kesberoy). Two or three decades ago, the majority of horses made their debuts in the colours of their breeders. However, by the end of the year… they had all changed ownership! Since then, the big owners of the Gulf States have set up large-scale breeding operations with substantial numbers of horses. There are plenty of these in France. In fact, most of the small traditional French breeders have disappeared, as the competition has become very tough. There have never been so many PA horses trained in France asnowadays. As things stand, there are now there are just a handful of French commercial breeders, with around 15 mares to their name, in existence. There are also a few private individuals who own one or two mares. As a result, the supply of horses-in-training for sale has greatly diminished. It’s much less than in the past. However, during the same period, the quality of the breeding operations has reached stratospheric levels: as PA horses are as well-grounded as their English thoroughbred counterparts nowadays. As the breaking process is identical and is completed by the same professionals. Lastly, they are entrusted to the care of top French trainers, who are equally capable of winning Gr1 races with English thoroughbreds. In the space of 50 years, the PA horse has evolved in the same way as the English thoroughbred did over several centuries. They go faster but are also more fragile. Furthermore, as with all breeds, the earlier selection process tends to improve the breed. As, the earlier you work horses, the hardier they become… subject that is to you respecting them. The success of French jumping stock in England and Ireland represents one of the best examples of this.”

Arawak d’Aroco

“Arawak d’Aroco (Manganate) was the epitome of a class act with an indifferent pedigree. His dam was by Fawzan(Tuhotmos). The production of endurance horses was a particular feature of this maternal line. However, this bloodline has gained in stature over time, but, at the outset, it wasn’t much to speak of. Arawak d’Aroco was the first good performer to emanate from this line. I bought him the day he made his debut. He had got loose… and was quite a difficult character. Despite his indifferent breeding on the dam’s side, he became a champion. Arawak d’Aroco was born in 1992, which is the year I went to Qatar for the first time. I was invited by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Al Thani. A few years down the line, I sold him this horse. That was the beginning of a lengthy collaboration, and it was at that time that Sheikh Mohamed bought many of the mares that have formed the basis of his breeding operation… One of my lasting memories is the race meeting on June 2nd, 1996 [at Chantilly]. Arawak d’Aroco won the Derby des Pur-Sang Arabes, Elixir de Bastorre (Tidjani) did likewise in the Prix du Président des Emirats Arabes Unis, and Ragmar (Tropular) delivered in the Prix du Jockey Club (Gr1) for Jean-Louis Bouchard… I also recall Parador (Dormane).”


“Manark (Mahabb) was recommended to me by Damien de Watrigant. After his winning debut, he transferred to the ownership of Hamdan Al Maktoum with the international success that ensued. Jean-Marc de Watrigant, Manark’s breeder, is a true purist. We owe him a great deal relative to the success of the French PA horse. Even when there were no financial returns to be had with PA horses, he lavished them with the same care as the best English thoroughbreds. He never skimped. He was always passionate about the selection process. By the way, do you know who he did his military service with? François Boutin! You couldn’t make it up. These were two men deeply committed to the selection process; and two men were striving for the best. They were hardly horse dealers. I can relate to them in their quest for quality. If racing in France were to revolve around nothing more than second-rate handicaps… then I would go off and breedgeese.”

Djainka des Forges

“I initially bought Djamour des Forges (Tidjani), who had produced a foal by Djainka des Forges (Kerbella), on my own behalf. Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani subsequently asked me to source daughters of Tidjani (Flipper) for him. So I suggested he buy Djamour des Forges, – stressing that we need to wait until the weaning process had been completed… or buy both. I decided in favour of the second option and so acquired mother and daughter. Djainka des Forges was initially reared at the Haras de SaintFaust as a foal. She was then sent to Britain where this process was completed [at the stud] of her owner’s brother.”

Hadi de Carrère

“Although beaten on his debut, Hadi de Carrère (Nieshan) was a far more physically impressive specimen than his rivals, and was trained by Eric Dell’Ova, whose young horses tend to have scope for improvement. The winner of the race was highly regarded by Thomas Fourcy. A well-regarded type, owned by one of my clients, was also in the same race. As soon as you come across an immature colt capable of making the best ‘Fourcy’ runner pull out the stops – you can jump in with both feet.”

Lady Princess

“That’s also what happened in the case of Lady Princess (General). I’ve been working for Sheail Bin Khalifa Al Kuwari for almost four decades now! When she made her debut at Toulouse, I wasn’t at the races… so I didn’t realise how small she was! Although I did become aware of the filly’s extraordinary stride pattern on the television screen. Even before exiting the track, I had picked up the phone and, by the time that her photo had been taken in the winner’s circle, it was a done deal. You come across horses like her every 20 years. She had an exceptional engine. This filly wasn’t big. Neither was she a heavy type. That’s one of the reasons for her longevity: as, on engaging high speeds, the pressure exerted isn’t quite the same on the joints.” The future “For 30 years now, people have been telling me that PA racing is finished. I see that Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates… continue to be active in this sphere and they’re going at a good lick. Kuwait has also made its entrance with the financial resources behind it. Saudi Arabia is going to become a major player in view of the high number of stakeholders and prize money levels to match. However, by the same token, market indicators reveal that there are very few PA horses up for sale. We could be on the cusp of a revival.”


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