Lagardere Legacy Rides On Victor Ludorum

Victor Ludorum is the latest on the Lagardere honour roll | Scoop Dyga


When Victor Ludorum (GB) (Shamardal) steps out for Monday's keenly anticipated G3 Prix de Fontainebleau at ParisLongchamp, he will do so with the kind of notability that comes as standard for winners of the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. France's pre-eminent track's juvenile showcase, previously known as the Grand Criterium, has long proved magnetic to the elite and acts as a significant early exposé of prominent future sires.

Back in 1933, Edouard de Rothschild, the grandfather of the current France Galop President of the same name, was represented by his beloved Brantôme (Fr), who brushed aside his peers en route to achieving widespread notoriety as a 3-year-old. Ending up as one of his country's most revered racehorses, he was also to be classed a “chef-de-race” despite an unwelcome diversion to Germany as the consequences of World War II took hold. After that unhappy epoch, as Europe ascended from the gloom and despair there was another significant force to emerge in the 1948 winner Ambiorix II (Fr). Marcel Boussac's champion 2-year-old colt went on to grace Bull Hancock's Claiborne Farm with distinction, becoming North America's leading sire in 1961.

This particular spell also saw the dual G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Tantieme (Fr) offer a precursor of what was to follow and he went on to be crowned France's champion sire on two occasions, while the 1950 winner Sicambre (Fr) proved another stalwart in his second career. North American interests came forward again for the 1964 Grand Criterium hero Grey Dawn (Fr), who inflicted a now scarcely believable defeat on his illustrious stablemate Sea-Bird (Fr) to claim champion honours, having also garnered the Prix Morny and Prix de la Salamandre. He stood in Kentucky as a sire and broodmare sire par excellence and was still raging against the dying of the light in his 29th year at Domino Stud Farm.

Three years after Grey Dawn's memorable renewal, there was an overseas interloper of great note. The late Dr Vincent O'Brien brought Sir Ivor to Paris during one of his many experimental phases-the colt went on to Pisa for the winter-and Raymond Guest's crack performer served notice that he was to carve his own niche in the turf's history. Scintillating victories in the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby were followed by a suitably impressive stud career also at Claiborne. He proved a longstanding font of class animals from there, with over 90 stakes winners including the legendary Sir Tristram (Ire). His reputation soared even higher as a broodmare sire, with one of his daughters Ivanjica triumphant in the Arc.

It was perhaps in 1976 that the Grand Criterium saw its most impeccable winner and resultant sire. The Aga Khan's superb chestnut Blushing Groom (Fr) already enjoyed a lofty reputation ahead of his clash with the much-vaunted J. O. Tobin and simply lit up Longchamp when slamming that contemporary in a rare display of racing prowess. While he was unable to go on to even greater heights after being stretched too far in the 1977 Epsom Derby, his stud career at Gainesway Farm proved a highly distinguished one. His progeny list features the eventual 1991 Criterium hero and Breeders' Cup sensation Arazi, as well as Groom Dancer, the ground-breaking Nashwan and other star performers and subsequent sires Rahy and Rainbow Quest.

In 1978 there was another chestnut who was to prove an outstanding influence at stud in that continent. Irish River (Fr), who flaunted a trademark turn of foot to secure the prize in the blinkers he required in all his fast action, was another shrewd acquisition by John R. Gaines. At a time when his sire Riverman was de rigueur in the U.S., he was one of several high-profile French runners to head across the Atlantic. Living until 2004, he sired the likes of Paradise Creek, Hatoof and Brief Truce, and almost 90 stakes winners in total. Three years later, Green Forest was the latest Criterium hero shipped to the States and he enjoyed early joy without demonstrating his predecessors' staying power.

As the eighties wore on, France's homegrown talent Kendor (Fr) featured as the most prolific resultant sire following his unexpected romp in the 1988 edition. Backing that up with success in the 1989 Poule d'Essai des Poulains in record time, he continued the narrative of surprise package by going on to boost the French breeding industry with 34 stakes winners including Charges d'Affaires (GB), Keltos (Fr) and Literato (Fr) and today's domestic talisman Kendargent (Fr). During a time of rampant commercialism in the sport, that is impressive stuff.

While the next decade witnessed two high-class colts from the esteemed Francois Boutin academy in Hector Protector and Arazi, both failed to become the major stallion influence they appeared at first sight. Arazi, whose Breeders' Cup masterstroke remains a conversation piece the world over, could not turn good opportunity at Dalham Hall and Three Chimneys Farm into results. In 2001, the authorities re-shaped the Grand Criterium by shortening the trip to seven furlongs and Aidan O'Brien gilded the contest with one of the era's singular talents Rock of Gibraltar (Ire). Throughout his spell racing, he proved as unyielding as the geological promontory after which he was named and while his stud career did not enjoy a consistently rising trajectory he is now rightly seen as an important influence. His big earners are Eagle Mountain (GB), Society Rock (Ire), Samitar (GB), Prince Gibraltar (Fr), Eishin Osman (Jpn) and Mount Nelson (GB).

With the race rejigged again when named in honour of Jean-Luc Lagardere in 2003, Juddmonte's American Post (GB) dashed to glory before holding his own as one of France's best-value sires, while another Coolmore representative Oratorio (Ire) followed suit a year later prior to siring the high-class Military Attack (Ire). Another of Ballydoyle's winning strata Holy Roman Emperor (Ire) took advantage of the absence of his immovable foe Teofilo (Ire) in 2006 and his subsequent time in Co. Tipperary has seen him responsible for the leading performers Designs On Rome (Ire), Beauty Only (Ire), Mongolian Khan (Aus) and Romanised (Ire). By the time the decade was nearing an end, the race was back on track as a breed-shaping event.

Then came probably the race's most prolific recent sire in His Highness The Aga Khan's Siyouni (Fr). Enjoying what would be his final career win in the 2009 edition, he has surprised many with his conversion into pre-eminent flag-bearer for his owner-breeder's Haras de Bonneval. To date, the monarch of that Normandy establishment has been crowned leading sire in France for three consecutive years and can boast the likes of Sottsass (Fr), City Light (Fr), Le Brivido (Fr), Ervedya (Fr) and Laurens (Fr) among his prized crops. French breeding has enjoyed a renaissance as a result of Siyouni's feats and also from the similarly fast and precocious Wootton Bassett (GB) who won in 2010. Snapped up by Haras d'Etreham, he rewarded their foresight by siring the brilliant Almanzor (Fr) and a plethora of other smart performers to position himself among the present day's leading domestic stallions.

Fast juveniles were the order of the day at this time and the 2011 winner Dabirsim (Fr) proved another of the slicker brigade before heading to Gestut Karlshof then Haras de Grandcamp. The 2012 scorer Olympic Glory (Ire) formed part of this clutch of Lagardere-winning stallions to stand in Normandy, in his case for Haras de Bouquetot, in what can only be seen as a revival of the region's power in this sphere.

While it is too early to say what kind of stud career the subsequent winners will enjoy, the initial signs are that the 2013 hero Karakontie (Jpn) has more than a small chance of making it. Now at Gainesway, as Green Dancer, Irish River and Blushing Groom had been before him, his first crop included last year's G3 Horris Hill S. scorer Kenzai Warrior. If he is promising, then the colt who was controversially disqualified in the 2014 renewal in Gleneagles (Ire) has started extremely brightly at Coolmore. His classy juveniles Royal Lytham (Fr), Royal Dornoch (Ire) and Southern Hills (Ire) served only to further illuminate his prospects.

With the 2015 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere reverting to a mile, it was Godolphin's Ultra (Ire) (Manduro {Ger}) who marked the occasion with a strong staying effort. Standing at Haras du Logis, his first yearlings sell in 2020 surrounded by positive vibes. In the same royal blue on Monday will be Victor Ludorum, part of last year's holy trinity of juvenile colts who were supplied almost as a salubrious parting gift by the recently-deceased Shamardal. Few would bet against the latest Andre Fabre rising star ultimately achieving his own renown among the winners of France's premier juvenile race.

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