French success a tribute to Australian connection

The impressive debut of Midlife Crisis (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) in a 2-year-old maiden at Deauville in France on Tuesday owed more than just a little to the foresight of Australian-based agent Louis Le Metayer of Astute Bloodstock, who sourced his dam, The Hunt Is On (Manhattan Rain) for his French breeders, Haras d'Etreham.

Cover image courtesy of Scoop Dyga Photo

Midlife Crisis is being touted as a possible contender for Group 1 races later in the season by his trainer Hiroo Shimizu, after his 5l win at Deauville over 7.5 furlongs.

“In my opinion, he has plenty of room for improvement and is capable of much more. I very much see him as a (G1) Prix du Jockey club horse for next year and the (G1) Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere [over seven furlongs at Longchamp in October] will be his target this season," Shimizu said after the win .

Over four years ago, Le Metayer dispatched then assistant Nicolas Lefevre to Millicent in South Australia to inspect the broodmare prospect The Hunt Is On, the three-quarter sister to Group 1 winners Abbey Marie (Redoute's Choice) and Absolutely (Redoute's Choice), and sister to Group 3 subsequent Geelong Cup winner Runaway.

"I am always on the lookout for well-bred mares that can be sourced privately or even for auction. Ones with a bit of ability. We really like this family, it’s a beautiful big international family," he told TDN AusNZ.

 

"We spotted this mare who was in training in South Australia. I sent my assistant at the time, Nicolas Lefevre, to go and have a look at her.

"He drove from Sydney all the way to a town near Mt Gambier. He drove about 2500 km to go and look at her and he came back and reported that she was a beautiful mare and we should buy her.

"The trainer who had her at the time was just scratching his head about this kid driving from Sydney to look at this mare, to take 10 photos and then jump back in the car again."

Lefevre's legwork proved all important. While The Hunt Is On's race record of one win from 12 starts didn’t jump off the page, her pedigree did, with her dam, Catshaan (Catrail {USA}) a half-sister to multiple Japanese Group 1 winner Kinshasa No Kiseki (Fuji Kiseki {Jpn}).

Louis Le Metayer

Le Metayer wanted confirmation that she had the type to suit the pedigree, and after initially buying her himself, he sold her on to his old friend Nicolas de Chambure of Haras d'Etreham.

"We have been friends for a long-time and worked at Lindsay Park together. We do a fair bit of business," he said.

"She was fairly cheap and I had regretted not taking a share in her. A month or so later, Abbey Marie comes out and wins the Australasian Oaks in Adelaide and following that, Runaway, the full brother, who was a beautiful yearling, ends up winning the Geelong Cup.

"The family has just kept evolving. It’s always been my theory that big pedigrees get bigger. Particularly where there is a strong depth to the pedigree."

Nicolas de Chambure | Image courtesy of Scoop Dyga Phot

The latest Group 1 winner added to the pedigree page is the Doncaster Mile winner Nettoyer (Sebring), who like The Hunt Is On, is descended from the imported mare Keltshaan (USA) (Pleasant Colony {USA}).

Finding the right mares

Utilising his knowledge of both the French and Australian breeding and racing industries, Le Metayer is a specialist at identifying suitable mares for export and import, and The Hunt Is On very much fit the bill.

"With the way the currency works, it's a really good deal for European buyers to source mares out of Australia. They generally get stronger horses with a bit more speed, and in France, there is not an oversaturation of Danehill blood as much," he said.

"We are always looking for pedigrees which make sense to bring back to Europe. Australian breeders are more performance-orientated where European breeders are more pedigree-orientated, so you just need to find the right balance and the right horse that is going to suit. Not every horse is going to suit both hemispheres.

"We are always looking for pedigrees which make sense to bring back to Europe." - Louis Le Metayer

"This mare, The Hunt Is On, she is a beautiful mare, very correct, big scopey, well put together and so when we saw her, we definitely thought she would suit wherever she went."

She was put into foal to Lonhro on Northern Hemisphere time and sent to Haras d'Etreham in Normandy in northern France.

A Crisis worth having

The subsequent Lonhro filly, Nouvelle Escale (Fr), was a winner at Pau in January, while the second foal, a colt by Haras D'Etreham resident Wootton Basset (GB) always stood out.

"He was a really nice yearling at the Deauville sales last year," Le Metayer said. "A little bit open in the knees but he was a big, strong imposing sort of horse, built more like an Australian horse rather than a more lighter-framed French horse. We thought he'd sell well."

Midlife Crisis sold for €120,000 (AU$197,000) to Daniel Cole and races under the ownership of Shigeo Nomura and looks to be very promising indeed.

 

Watch: Midlife Crisis (Fr) as a yearling

"It's so nice to see him winning on debut like this so impressively and for Nicolas, who has the dam and the stallion, it was a good result. I think those horses that can lead and quicken, and dictate off the high cruising speed, they are often the better ones," he said.

The yearling filly out of The Hunt Is On by Siyouni (Fr) is catalogued as Lot 475 at the upcoming Arqana Deauville Select Sale.

Le Metayer has sourced several mares for Haras D'Etreham out of Australia, including the dual stakes-winner Selenia (Not A Single Doubt), who they paid $575,000 for at the 2018 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale.

Selenia when sold through the 2018 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale

De Chambure also has a strong connection to this part of the world through his time spent at Lindsay Park, and Haras D'Etreham has built a partnership with Cambridge Stud through another son of Wootton Bassett, Almanzor (Fr), who shuttles to New Zealand, as well as recent G1 Diamond Jubilee S. winner Hello Youmzain (GB) (Kodiac {GB}), who they co own.

Haras D'Etreham is also the European home of Australian stallion Scissor Kick.

"I organised the Scissor Kick deal with Arrowfield as John Messara is my old boss," Le Metayer said.

"Haras D'Etreham are an international player who are selective breeders. They are doing very well. It's nice to see Nicolas, who is only in his 30s, really giving his family business a renaissance by building relationships with like-minded people around the world and by breeding good horses."

Winners flowing from Astute purchases

The emergence of Midlife Crisis as a potential star is a further fillip for Le Metayer's Astute Bloodstock, which has had a good run of results of late.

"I'm very lucky to have such a good bunch of clients. We have had four winners from our last four runners. That's been really pleasing and business has been terrific the last six months. I have been able to source some top mares for clients, like Spright and Miss Leonidas," he said.

"I'm always importing nice fillies out of France to race in Australia as well. Business has been good, I'm sure it will get tougher, but so far so good, I'm not complaining."

Ben O'Brien TDN Australia & New Zealand

 

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