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  Boussac: The Golden Years

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Trainers: Les Anglais in France

Portrait: Tourbillon

Portrait: Pharis


  Marcel Boussac: The Golden Years and Decline

By Anne Peters ©2007

Haras Jardy
Broodmares in front of the main barn at Haras de Jardy in the early 1950s

The Golden Years

The 1930s were golden years for Boussac. Besides Tourbillon, Thor, and Adargatis, Haras le Fresnay-le-Buffard produced champions and classic winners Corrida (2 time Arc winner), Goya (champion and leading sire), Cillas, Semiramide, Djebel (champion and leading sire), Esmeralda, but the best of them all was Pharis, one of the best anyone ever had.

Pharis (1936 by Pharos -Carissima by Clarissimus) was a a big, burly, black colt. Late coming into hand, he was unraced at 2, and forged his reputation in just 3 starts at 3, the Prix Noailles, Prix du Jockey Club and Grand Prix de Paris. He was undefeated and untested. A match race was being arranged between Pharis and the English champion Blue Peter, but plans fell apart and Pharis was retired to stud. His first crop included champions Priam, Palencia, and Ardan; which made him the Leading Sire in France in 1944, but no one knew that when the Germans arrived in 1940.

Two-times French Champion Ardan (top left). Boussac's 1947 home-bred crop that swept the 1950 English classics: Asmena (top right), Galcador (bottom left) and Scratch (bottom right)
World War II broke out in Europe and the Germans invaded Normandy in 1940. Among the prized Thoroughbreds they seized and returned to Germany, Boussac's champions Pharis and Corrida were at the top of the list. Corrida disappeared, presumably killed, but Pharis was kept for 5 seasons and returned to Boussac in 1945. The only really good horse Pharis got during the German years was Asterblüte, winner of the German Oaks and Derby. Back at home in France, his 1947 crop included Doncaster St. Leger and Prix du Jockey Club winner Scratch and Irish Oaks winner Corejada. Boussac completed an English classic sweep that year with other home-bred youngsters: Asmena (by Goya, Epsom Oaks) and Galcador (by Djebel, Epsom Derby), and Pan (by Atys) took the Ascot Gold Cup. His later crops included champions Auriban, Pharaos and Philius.

Boussac purchased the famed Haras de Jardy, former home of Edmond Blanc's breeding empire, in 1943. Since Jardy was closer to Paris than Normandy, it might have served as a hedge to protect some of the stud's assets, as Tourbillon was moved to Jardy during that period.

But the war took its toll on Boussac's empire. To revive his investments in textiles - mostly cotton - and clothing manufacturing, in 1946, he entered into an agreement with fashion designer Christian Dior, one of the terms being that the company take on Dior's name, and so was born the House of Dior. Presumably to liquidate much needed funds for the industrial side of his fortune, Boussac also sold off a number of his stallions and colts. In a way, this proved key to the revitalization of the stud, since Boussac was prone to return his best colts to stand at stud, at the risk of detracting mares from his better stallions or investing in the introduction of a new bloodline altogether.

Astérus had died in 1939, but had been ably replaced by his Middle Park Stakes-winning son, Abjer (1933 out of Zariba). Abjer sired Nosca, Hierocles, Tifinar, and Caravelle in his first 2 crops, but nothing of note afterwards and died young, in 1945, his career perhaps affected adversely by the conditions of war. Hierocles, winner of the Prix la Rochette at 2, and 2-time winner of the Prix d'Ispahan, was briefly used as a replacement, but was sold to America in late 1947. Hierocles wasn't a booming success in either France or America, but left 2 daughters in the U.S., one of which became the ancestress of Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol and champion Tersa; and the other the ancestress of the great racemare Dahlia. Boussac also used Astérus's son Jock for a few season with limited success, then sold him as well. This spelled the end of the Astérus male line at Fresnay-le-Buffard, but he and Abjer both had left a lot of good daughters to carry on the genes.

Tourbillon reigned as France's Leading Sire in 1940, 1942 and 1945. He was still going strong when his son Goya stood his first season in 1939 (while still in training), and another good son, Djebel, retired alongside them both in 1943. Pharis's first crop made him the Leading Sire in 1944, while he was covering in Germany.

Goya was a classy 2-year-old in England where he won the Gimcrack Stakes and placed in the Middle Park Stakes. At 3, he won the St. James's Palace Stakes and placed in the 2,000 Guineas and Champion Stakes. He was the best older male in training in France at 5 and 6. Goya was an immediate success at stud, with champion 2-year-old Nirgal, Prix du Jockey Club winner Sandjar, and champion filly Corteira in his early crops, and Oaks winner Asmena in his last French crop. Goya took over as Leading Sire in 1947 and 1948, and it was at this peak of value that Boussac sold Goya to American interests in late 1947. In the U.S., he had moderate success, but was still a serious disappointment compared to what he had achieved in his home country.

Two of Djebel's offspring: Daughter Coronation (left) and his in-bred son, Djeddah
Djebel was coming in to his own as a sire at this time. He won the Middle Park Stakes in England and was the Champion at 2 in France as well. At 3, he went back to England to win the 2,000 Guineas, and was the undefeated champion at 5 in France, the year he won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. His early crops included Coronation (Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe), Galcador (Derby), Arbar (Ascot Gold Cup), My Babu (2,000 Guineas), Djelfa, Djeddah, and Clarion. Djebel was the Leading Sire in France in 1949 and later crops produced the champion fillies Cordova and Apollonia.

Boussac raced the classy Djeddah, who won the Eclipse Stakes and Champion Stakes, but sold him to stand at stud in America in late 1950. The intensely inbred colt (3x4 to Teddy, Durbar II and Banshee) was moderately successful in his new home but proved more influential as a broodmare sire. His daughters produced Never Bend, Mr. Leader and Proud Clarion among others.

The success of Djebel and the incredible stud career of the repatriated Pharis overshadowed the reputation of the aging Tourbillon, whose last top class runner was champion 2-year-old Ambiorix, foaled in 1946. By the time Ambiorix was finished racing, the Boussac stud was full of the blood of both his sire (Tourbillon) and his dam (a daughter of Pharos, who sired Pharis). There was no room for a colt bred like Ambiorix, and he, too, was sold to America, in the fall of 1949. Pharis' good son Ardan also went to Kentucky for the 1950 season, as did his half-brother Adaris (by Tourbillon).

Boussac went into the 1950s with a stallion line-up led by Tourbillon, who died in 1954; his son Djebel; and the mighty Pharis. Having sold off many of the best sons of these sires, he started making errors in what he kept as stallions. He retired the great Marsyas to Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard and the son of Trimdon did exactly what one would expect of a late-maturing stayer: he failed, although he sired a minor miracle in Marsyad, winner of the Dewhurst Stakes which is a top juvenile sprint in England. He kept his Prix du Jockey Club winner Coaraze, who got Canthare before both were sold to South America. Scratch also went to South America. He kept the stayer Arbar (by Djebel), who didn't do too badly. And he kept Pharis's Prix du Jockey Club winner Auriban.

Boussac's Foundation Broodmares
and Their Most Important Descendants
Champions and Leading Sires in Bold Face
MareBoussac-bred Descendants
Ballantrae (f.1899) Fam 5-jCoeur A Coeur, Loika, Djebel (Champion at 2, Champion Older Horse at 5; Middle Park S., 2,000 Guineas, l'Arc de Triomphe; Leading Sire in France), Hierocles, Imperator, Djask, Dernah, Pharad
Bonfire (f.1905) Fam 5-eLasarte, Bellecour, Thor (P.du Jockey Club; P.du Cadran), Callisto, Semiramide (Champion 2yo Filly), Djama, Corteira (Champion 2yo Filly; Champion 3yo Filly; Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Diane, Prix Vermeille), Gismonda, Abalvina
Sweet Briar II (f.1908) Fam 8-cSun Briar, Sunreigh
Diana Vernon (f.1910) Fam 14Grillemont, Deasy, Tifinar (P. Royal Oak), Sanaa, Argolide, Esmeralda (Champion 2yo Filly; Poule d'Essai des Pouliches), Palencia (Champion 2yo Filly;Poule d'Essai des Pouliches), Narses, Estoc, Coronation V (Champion 3yo; Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, l'Arc de Triomphe), Pharsale, Monrovia, Nyangal,Tanis, Stymphale (P. Royal Oak), Alcinus, Aram, Caralina, Pharisienne, Arbencia (P.Vermeille), Phigalia, Astola (P.Vermeille), Emerald, Locris, Faunus, Dankaro (Champion 3yo)
Desmond Lassie (f.1912) Fam 9Ramon, Irismond, Alguazil, Esclarmonde, Atys, Nerissa, Thiorba, Albor, Djerba, Janus, Cortil
Casquetts (f.1913) Fam 20-aCarissima, Pharis (Champion at 3; P.du Jockey Club, Grand Prix de Paris; Leading Sire in France), Cecias, Apsara, Nirgal (Champion 2yo), Liberation, Celtiber, Emperor, Cosmopolia, Elpenor (Ascot Gold Cup, P.du Cadran)
Primrose Lane (f.1913) Fam 1Perle Noire, La Moqueuse, La Circe (P.Vermeille), Melusine, Pretty Lady, Djelal, Djerid, Massilia, Corseira, Dynamiter, Damaka, Canthare, Arsar, Dalama, Auriber, Abdos (Champion 2yo), Coyras, Kano, Dekeleia
Only One (f.1914) Fam 14-fRamus (P.du Jockey Club), Naic, Jock, Orlamonde, Callais, Damnos, Scratch (P.du Jockey Club, St. Leger), Catumbo, Balkis, Janitor, Sembrana, Atrax, Destral
Helene de Troie (f.1916) Fam 1-sAdargatis (Champion 3yo Filly; Diane), Leonidas, La Troienne, Adaris, Ardan (Champion 3yo, Champion Older Horse at 4; P.du Jockey Club, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe), Anubis, Pardal
Durban (f.1918) Fam 13-cBanstar, Sartellus, Diademe, Tourbillon (P.du Jockey Club; Leading Sire in France), Erromango, Caravelle (Champion 2yo filly, Champion 3yo Filly; Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Diane), Daova, Charleval, Cordova (Champion 2yo Filly; Champion 3yo Filly), Janiari (P.Vermeille)
Durzetta (f.1918) Fam 13-cCingalaise, Firanek, Golestan, Norval, Paracios, Djelfa (Champion 2yo Filly; Poule d'Essai des Pouliches), Goma, Whiranek
Merry Polly (f.1918) Fam 16-gMerry Girl (P. Vermeille)
Experience (f.1919) Fam 2-iDenver, Giafar
Zariba (f.1919) Fam 9-eL'Esperance, Corrida (Champion mare at 4; Arc de Triomphe 2xs), Goya (Champion Older Horse at 4 and 5; Leading Sire in France), Abjer (Middle Park S.), Goyescas,Theano, Coaraze (P.du Jockey Club), Pharelle, Souryva, Pharyva, Windorah, Goyaz, Galgala (Poule d'Essai des Poulains), Flying Carpet, Divinalh, Galcador (Derby), Esquilla, Pareo, Pharel, Temora, Amora, Caraida, Nemora, Philius (Champion 2yo; P.du Jockey Club), Argal, Anadoli, Astana, Crepellana (Champion 3yo Filly; Diane), Alvedas
Gracilite (f.1921) Fam 12Capella, Nosca, Tarpan
Heldifann (f.1921) Fam 13-cDjezima, Tourzima, Priam (Champion 2yo), Djeddah, Atal, Coronis, Pharima, Ismene, Calonice, Salamis, Hedjaz, Iror, Damoiselle, Cardanil, Isocles, Corejada (Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Irish Oaks), Amphis, Hilltop, Marsyad, Pharaos (Champion 2yo Filly), Shaker, Faublas, Albanilla, Macip (P.Royal Oak, Ascot Gold Cup), Apollonia (Champion 2yo; Champion 3yo; Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Diane), Floriana, Arcor, Palamos, Abar, Licata, Passiova, Nillaos, Perello, Demia, Acamas (Champion 3yo; P.du Jockey Club)
Perle Noire (f.1921) Fam 1-eDadji (P.du Cadran; GP von Baden), Alfaraz
Frizelle (f.1922) Fam 13-cOrlanda, Cillas (Champion at 2 and 3;P.du Jockey Club), Damtar, Auriban (Champion 2yo Champion 3yo; P.du Jockey Club), Fakahina
Sweet Picture (f.1922) Fam 4-nThaouka, Micipsa, Timur, Caramida, Karali, Canzoni, Cadir, Talma (St. Leger), Astyanax
Likka (f.1925) Fam 9-eAstronomie, Marsyas (Prix du Cadran 4xs), Caracalla (Champion 3yo; Champion Older Horse at 4; Grand Prix de Paris, P. Royal Oak; Ascot Gold Cup, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe), Arbar (Champion Older Horse at 4; Prix du Cadran, Ascot Gold Cup), Asmena (Oaks), Pharas, Arbele, Kurun, Floriados, Arbela
Devineress (f.1930) Fam 2-nGoyama
Lavendula (f.1930) Fam 1-wAmbiorix (Champion 2yo; Leading Sire in U.S.)
Bouillabaisse (f. 1935) Fam 14-bCuadrilla, Argur
Zulaikhaa (f.1937) Fam 7Sandjar (P.du Jockey Club)
Rule Britannia (f.1944) Fam 13-eArtania
In typical innovative fashion, Boussac then turned to America, looking for bloodlines that might complement his base of Tourbillon, Asterus, Sardanapale and Pharis. The answer seemed to be an American Triple Crown winner named Whirlaway, whose appearance drew Boussac's comment "C'est pour moi!" Whirlaway (by Derby winner Blenheim II - Dustwhirl by Sweep) had disappointed at his home base in Kentucky and when the offer came from France, Warren Wright of Calumet Farm could not resist. Whirlaway stood his first season in France in 1951, and sired a few stakes winners for Boussac, but died after only a few seasons, and ultimately proved a disappointment in his new home as well.

Whirlaway died in April of 1953, and Boussac went back to Calumet to replace him, purchasing another son of Blenheim II named Fervent, who had won the American Derby. Fervent was a terrible sire, but Boussac went back to Calumet a third time, this time getting the brilliantly fast but infertile Coaltown (by Bull Lea - Easy Lass by Blenheim II). Coaltown also failed. Boussac then imported Coaltown's kinsman, the Kentucky Derby winner Iron Liege (by Bull Lea - Iron Maiden by War Admiral), who hailed from the same family as the contemporary champion Swaps. Needless to say, Iron Liege also failed, although a few of his daughers carried on.

The Decline

The mighty champion Pharis died in 1957 and Djebel died the next year, leaving Boussac in a serious lurch. With a lack of suitable top class replacements, the stud was forced to rely heavily on the homebred sires Arbar and Auriban, both of which were a cut below top class. Arbar sired Abdos in 1959, a colt who won the Grand Criterium and was retired back to Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard and had some success, the best probably being the filly Licata, who became a top broodmare. Auriban was not as successful, but left a few daughters that made it to the next stage.

The result of this was that Boussac was forced to use outside stallions, and so to send his precious mares to outside farms, something he was loathe to do after having bad experiences shipping out with mares and foals getting sick. For a man who was noted for being on the leading edge of management and nutrition, it was almost an insult to send his treasures into someone else's hands, but these covers brought him some of the best homebreds of this late era.

To the cover of Crepello, he got 1969 Prix de Diane winner Crepellana and 1976 2-year-old Perello. To the cover of Dan Cupid, he got the champion colt Dankaro and stakes winner Faunus. He also got good stakes horses by outside stallions Venture (Locris), Sir Ivor (Passiova), Exbury (Dekeleia), Busted (Labus) and lastly, Mill Reef, sire of his last good horse and last Prix du Jockey Club winner, Acamas.

But the deaths of Djebel and Pharis marked the beginning of the end for Boussac's breeding empire, although the death was long and agonizing. In Boussac's parallel universe, his business partner, Christian Dior, died in 1957. The designer was succeeded at the House of Dior by a young Yves Saint Laurent, but there was no meeting of minds and this partnership broke up by 1960, Saint Laurent opening his own house after a stint in the French army. All this instability wreaked havoc with Boussac's finances, as did the growing Third World market in labor for manufacturing.

Boussac took loans out on his companies but could not make the payments and in 1978, he was bankrupt. His empire was sold off in parts. He died on March 21, 1980, and his widow tried to sell the bloodstock as a package. Initially, the Murty Brothers of America believed they had a contract to purchase, but the issue became clouded and in the end, the Aga Khan would up with the lot. Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard was sold to a group called Fresnay Agricole S.A.; and shortly resold to Stavros Niarchos. Haras de Jardy was given to the state as a gift and became a national park.

Marcel Boussac's influence on the breed has been long lasting, through his many influential runners and breeding stock, such as Tourbillon, Djebel, and Pharis. The Aga Khan purchased what was left of his stock and after culling quite a lot, kept the cream for himself, and his highly successful breeding and racing program through the last 30 years is due in large part to the high quality stock he acquired in the Boussac bloodstock.

Marcel Boussac: Quick Links
Marcel Boussac: The Rise Boussac: The Golden Years and Decline

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