Ghislain Bozo: a World View


Ghislain Bozo | Scoop Dyga


In the sphere of longitudinal lines, order is given to and connections are made within a world of complex variety. It is no coincidence that Ghislain Bozo, son of the famed stud manager Antoine, named his agency Meridian International when taking the plunge in 2002 to bring together the divergent racing and breeding forces of the globe. Responsible for buying the likes of Danedrop (Ire) (Danehill)–dam of the brilliant Danedream (Ger) (Lomitas {GB})–and being involved in Almanzor (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) as a yearling, the 49-year-old has been at the forefront of the drive to thrust France into the heart of international competition.

His career trajectory is one of those epics that cannot be told in brief, but the main point is that he was not pushed into racing and breeding by Antoine and Claire Bozo, who stood at the helm of the beautified Haras du Mezeray. Instead allowed breathing space to probe the world and find his own metier, he gained a rich source of experience that underlines the success of Meridian International during the first two decades of this millennium. And experience is the keyword. It is one that Ghislain uses often as he seeks to define his method of dissecting what he terms as “quality” in the Thoroughbreds that he scans with his keen eye.

“Horses have to have speed and generosity, tenacity and quality,” he states. “What quality is is not so easy to describe. It’s in the head and the coat of the horse, its attitude. It’s what makes a horse different from another. It is one way to look at horses that works well and something you define as you gain experience.” That experience had its roots way back in his infant and childhood years at Haras du Bois Roussel, Haras de Mortree and at Mezeray, and although he admits that “we lived around horses, but I was not passionate, to be honest,” the enchantment of such glorious surroundings and the atmosphere of a historic stud farm is forceful and seeps into the material of those who live within its confines. After extensive travels in the States, India and Germany, where the world of business was his focus, he honed an outlook trained on further afield than just France. Eventually, the pull of the trade in horses that had lured his ancestors proved too much and he took up a position at UNIC, which is his birth country’s promoter of the domestic horse industry around the world. After setting up the French Racing and Breeding Committee, it was his business orientation which truly set him on the way to renown.

A meeting in the early 2000s with Lucien Urano, who had made his name with French trotters under the auspices of Ecurie des Charmes, proved a waymark as the move to reinstate Ecurie des Monceaux as a major operation with international significance began.

“I introduced my brother [the established Henri] to Mr. Urano and he developed the farm for him and we bought him quite a lot of young mares and yearling fillies. Among those yearlings were three Group 1 winners in the first three years, so we had quite quick success there and that really got him started,” Ghislain reflects. “Henri did a good job and launched the stud and that’s how it began. Mr. Urano gave me a real opportunity to succeed and it gave me a stronger exposure to top bloodstock. I then did an MBA in Paris, which really gave me more confidence in business and then I started Capital Pur Sang with Nicolas de Chambure which enjoyed success with a small amount of capital.”

It was under Capital Pur Sang that the filly Dream Peace (Ire) (Dansili {GB}) was purchased for €250,000 at the 2010 Arqana Horses In Training Sale before going on to win the G2 Prix de la Nonette and prove herself a genuine top-level performer. Sold for 2.7 million guineas at the 2013 Tattersalls December Mares Sale, she was a benchmark for the operation which also bought into the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere hero Wootton Bassett as he entered stud. “I met more clients through that platform, including Laurent Dassault who is among my main clients today along with the top breeding operations of Ballylinch Stud, Haras de la Perelle, Gestut Brummerhof and Ecurie des Charmes.”

With his entrepreneur spirit, it is no surprise that Ghislain wants a shake-up of France’s status quo which he sees as partly focused in the wrong direction. “There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic, but at the same time we are in a transitional phase,” he explains. “When it comes to the French scene, we are in a pivotal moment and we need to make the necessary reforms. We have a very good system in the PMU, which is very beneficial to the industry, but we have to change a very French way of thinking concerning the redistribution of premiums which has some pernicious effects. It brings a little bit of laziness in the selection, as you have average horses getting a return due to the premiums. We need to keep that system but make it more efficient with selectivity in mind. That will balance the offer and encourage investment in better stock and therefore enhance our competitiveness.

“France has a long racing history and a complex racing institution. We need to restructure this institution and get people to adapt. There is now a strong awareness among French professionals and hopefully we will move forward. There are a lot of good fundamentals like Chantilly, probably the best training centre in the world, beautiful racetracks, racing programs and fantastic breeding operations, so it is more a question of adapting better to the current world. We need to reduce the number of racetracks and concentrate on attracting new crowds and business people in the best possible comfort. That’s why France Galop wanted to invest in the new ParisLongchamp, which was a really good thing and necessary. It will take time, but hopefully we will get there.”

With the UK government in disarray regarding the act of collective self harm known as Brexit, like most others Ghislain is cautious about the aspect of losing the benefits of easy trade with Britain. “I am also very concerned about Brexit and I think everyone can be,” he adds. “I’m sure long term we can find ways to overcome the issues, but it is still a concern.”

“As far as bloodstock is concerned, there is a very strong polarisation in ownership, with a few people with a lot of money but it goes around them a bit too much. Every country needs to widen that base of ownership through marketing and better prize money for better organization and better redistribution. The cost of producing a horse has become extremely expensive and stallion fees are probably unreasonable, so we need to be careful with that inflation. What we do have in France is a lot of new, young people and operations in the racing and breeding industry and that is quite exciting. There are reasons to be optimistic as well.”

Looking to 2019, Ghislain is keen on a set of fillies with elite pedigrees. “I have two I bought in partnership with David Redvers for Qatar Racing, and for Laurent Dassault and a Chinese client on my side. One is called Sparkle Roll (Fr) (Kingman {GB}) [a half-sister to last year’s Epsom Derby hero Wings of Eagles (Fr) (Pour Moi {Ire}) who took a Haydock maiden impressively in September for the John Gosden stable] and the other is with Francois Rohaut and is called Big Brothers Pride (Fr) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) [a half to this year’s G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest winner Polydream (Ire) (Oasis Dream {GB}) who took a Chantilly contest on her sole start in October]. There is also Mythic (Fr) (Camelot {GB}) from the family of Wings of Eagles who I bought for Ecurie des Charmes and who is in training with Alain de Royer-Dupre. She won her only start impressively [at Angers in November]. We also bought a very nice filly, Solage (GB) (Galileo {Ire}), with John O’Connor for Ballylinch Stud and Ecurie des Charmes [for €1-million at the recent Arqana December Sale] and we hope for the best with her. She is a beautiful and well-bred filly.”

The acquisition of four such high-profile fillies is evidence that Meridian International is building all the time. Through a trained acumen and a keen sense of what constitutes a choice Thoroughbred, there is a suspicion that Ghislain Bozo can take the family name to new heights. He has what it takes to not only survive, but excel in these unsettled times.

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