Prominent French Sire Le Havre Pensioned

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Le Havre bows out from stud duties at the age of 16 | Sumbe

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Le Havre (Ire) (Noverre), winner of the 2009 G1 Prix du Jockey Club and one of France's leading sires, has been retired at the age of 16 at Sumbe's Haras de Montfort et Préaux in Normandy. He has been hailed as “the most important horse of my life” by his owner Gérard Augustin-Normand.

In a statement released on Saturday, Sumbe manager Mathieu Alex said, “Due to health issues which occurred at the end of last year, the decision was made to end his stallion career. We owe him so much and our priority is his wellbeing. Le Havre is a true champion. Winner of a magnificent Prix du Jockey Club, he was a leading stallion from his debut at stud.”

He added, “The sire of 50 Stakes winners, including two dual winners of the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and the Prix de Diane, Le Havre is a source of French pride. We know how rare these horses are. He gave us the most beautiful emotions. We have lived with him for more than 10 years and are enjoying every moment.”

Bred by the Sundstrom family under their Team Hogdala banner, Le Havre was the first foal of his dam Marie Rheinberg (Ger) (Surako {Ger}), a half-sister to the Group 1-winning sprinter Polar Falcon (Nureyev), whose later accolades include being the sire of Pivotal (GB). 

Le Havre was bought by his trainer Jean-Claude Rouget for €100,000 at Arqana's August Sale and became the first major flag-bearer in Thoroughbred racing for his prolific owner. He won his first two starts as a juvenile and was clearly held in high regard by Rouget, who then ran him in the G1 Critérium International, in which he was seventh, beaten less than three lengths.

The trainer's confidence was well founded. Le Havre won the Listed Prix Djebel on his 3-year-old debut, beating the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère winner Naaqoos (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) into second. The pair finished in the same order on their next start in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, but this time it was in second and third behind Silver Frost (Ire) (Verglas {Ire}). Le Havre had his revenge a month later, however, when delivering a commanding performance to win the Prix du Jockey Club in its fifth year at the reduced distance of 2,100 metres.

His retirement to what was then known as Haras de la Cauvinière in 2009 prompted a significant foray into the breeding world by Augustin-Normand, who through his former racing manager and bloodstock advisor Sylvain Vidal bought a decent array of mares to support his exciting young stallion. Le Havre's arrival on the French scene came at a time when the country's stallion ranks had been quite seriously depleted with the deaths or retirement of some significant names such as Anabaa, Highest Honor and Linamix (Fr). Around the same time, Kendargent (Fr) and Siyouni (Fr) also retired to Normandy studs, and the trio has made a significant contribution to the resurgence of France's breeding industry over the last decade. 

Vidal's judgement in those broodmare purchases for their new stallion, who was the first to stand at the farm he ran with his former wife Elisabeth, soon became apparent and Le Havre was arguably the first of the three to make an impact. A well-named filly from his first crop, Avenir Certain (Fr), bred by Elisabeth Vidal, became Le Havre's first Classic winner in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and swiftly followed up in the Prix de Diane. Two years later the Augustin-Normand-bred La Cressonniere (Fr) completed the same Classic double, with both fillies having been campaigned by Augustin-Normand and Antonio Caro and trained by Rouget. 

Augustin-Normand told TDN on Saturday, “Le Havre has been the most important horse of my life. He was the beginning and it's very emotional for me. I wouldn't have been in the breeding business if he had not been there. Everything began with Le Havre and I wouldn't have started breeding horses without him.”

He continued, “When he went to stud I wanted to give him the best chances, everything he needed to succeed. I was so grateful to him for what he had given me, and that has not stopped. To have won two Poules and the Prix de Diane twice [with his daughters] is incredible.”

Paying tribute to the team that contributed to Le Havre's success on the racecourse and at stud, Augustin-Normand added, “I am very grateful to Jean-Claude Rouget, I think it was his first win in the Jockey Club, and it was a wonderful year for us. I am also very grateful to Christophe Lemaire, Sylvain Vidal, Mathieu Vidal and all the team. I must also say a word for Anna Sundstrom, the breeder of Le Havre. His story was the beginning for her also, and it will not be the end. Anna is a wonderful woman and is very important to me.”

Le Havre's first crop also included Suedois (Fr), who became his first colt to win at the top level in the GI Shadwell Turf Mile, while Villa Marina won the G1 Prix de l'Opera, and Wonderful Tonight (Fr), bred by Sylvain Vidal and Mathieu Alex, won the G1 British Champions Fillies & Mares S. and the G1 Prix de Royallieu among her five stakes wins for David Menuisier and Chris Wright. 

To date, Le Havre is the sire of 20 group winners and 30 listed winners, and features as the broodmare sire of G1 Coronation Cup winner Pyledriver (GB) (Harbour Watch {Ire}). A number of his daughters have been exported to Japan, including both his French Classic winners. Avenir Certain's first of two foals before her untimely death, Des Ailes (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), won last year's G2 Hanshin Himba S., and has struck early in 2022 with victory in the G3 Aichi Hai. Le Havre's daughter Sea Front (Fr) is now the dam of the Grade 2-winning juvenile Serifos (Jpn) (Daiwa Major {Jpn}). 

Le Havre will remain at Haras de Montfort et Préaux in retirement. Of his decision to bring the curtain down on the horse's stud career, Augustin-Normand said, “It has not been easy but it is the right thing to do. We love him so much and he has given us the biggest emotions. I went to Montfort last week to see him and it was really emotional. I hope he will stay with us as long as possible.”

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