The French started it, and with good reason. Back in 2010, when the country’s stallion ranks were in the doldrums and many of France’s best mares were leaving to visit stallions in Britain and Ireland, La Route des Etalons was devised in a bid to inject some interest back into the market by showing off the 30 new arrivals to Normandy farms.
It’s a region which has always had plenty to boast about. From the fabled Haras du Quesnay, seat of the Head family and former home to such luminaries as Anabaa, Bering and Highest Honor, to the ancient Haras de Victot with its moated castle and blue plaques on the wall depicting the likes of Allez France, a trip around Normandy is as much an architectural and historical delight as it is an important guide for thoroughbred breeders.
For 2019, there are again more than 30 new stallions in France
The route has continued and has grown in support and popularity. In 2019, the studs will open their doors for the tenth time on January 19 and 20, with 107 stallions available for viewing across 25 farms.
For 2019, there are again more than 30 new stallions in France, including the Group 1 winner Cloth Of Stars, who has been placed in the last two Arcs and retires to Julian Ince’s Haras du Logis, joining Derby winner Authorized, Manduro and his son Ultra, Masterstroke, Bow Creek and Hunter’s Light. It is worth nothing that Logis is open only on Sunday.
Planning your own route is vital, as reaching all 25 farms in two days is impossible. Working out the horses you really want to see and then aiming for a cluster of farms in the vicinity is a good first step, but keep in mind that there is plenty of driving to be done through the weekend – and leave time to enjoy a little of the local hospitality at each stop.
Among the other new recruits to the French ranks this year is the dual Group 1 winner Recoletos, who is standing at Haras du Quesnay.
Criquette Head’s in-depth knowledge of the stallions at her family’s farm means that the former trainer is always worth listening to and she is a regular on duty ‘front of house’ at Quesnay, discussing the merits of the roster with breeders.
The largest stallion roster in Normandy belongs to Haras de Bouquetot
The farm has had much to celebrate this year with the first-season success of leading young sire Anodin and he too will be on show alongside another Derby winner, Motivator, sire of the great Treve, as well as another recent recruit, Attendu.
The stallion roster at Larissa Kneip’s Haras de Saint Arnoult is growing and the farm welcomes two new arrivals for 2019. Dschingis Secret, a Group 1-winning son of Germany’s leading sire Soldier Hollow, will be of great interest, as well as Seabhac (pronounced Shoke), one of two sons of Scat Daddy to be standing in France this year.
The largest stallion roster in Normandy belongs to Haras de Bouquetot, home to the Al Shaqab stallions.
The farm this year boasts nine residents, including Shalaa, whose first foals were given a warm reception at recent sales, and the dual Classic winner Brametot. New to the line-up is Mekhtaal who, like Cloth Of Stars, is a son of Sea The Stars.
Among the big names who always pull the crowds is the Aga Khan’s very popular Siyouni, who will be on show at Haras de Bonneval alongside Dariyan and Zarak on Saturday only.
Haras de Montfort & Preaux is, like most farms, open on both days, and has the equally well regarded Le Havre, as well as the Queen’s young son of Galileo, Recorder, who was well supported in his debut season last year.
In 2019, the three top-rated sons of America’s leading stallion Kitten’s Joy all retire to stud in Europe. Roaring Lion is at Tweenhills, Hawkbill at Dalham Hall Stud, while in France Haras du Mezeray welcomes Taareef, a five-time Group winner for Sheikh Hamdan.
He will stand alongside Myboycharlie, sire of Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Sistercharlie, and the popular veteran Muhtathir.
A bit of a drive from the Normandy heartland up towards Caen but well worth a visit is Haras d’Etreham.
The de Chambure family stud is currently home to Almanzor and his sire Wootton Bassett, as well as Elusive City and Scissor Kick, and offers broad appeal with an interesting dual-purpose roster which includes Saint Des Saints, Masked Marvel and Kamsin.
If you make the trip to Etreham it can be combined with a visit to nearby Haras de la Hetraie for a perusal of Pascal Noue’s solid line-up of National Hunt stallions.
Well worth a visit is Haras d’Etreham
These include the statuesque Kapgarde – well worth seeing in the flesh – and his son Kap Rock, as well as Great Pretender, Bathyrhon, Top Trip and Pastorius, another Group 1-winning son of Soldier Hollow. Hetraie is also home to George Vancouver, who has made a promising start with his Flat runners.
Irish Stallion Trail
It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so the French should be pleased that in 2015 the Irish adopted their idea to launch the Irish Stallion Trail.
This year it is staged a little earlier than usual, a week before its French cousin on January 11 and 12.
More than 25 studs the length and breadth of the island will be taking part and of course many visitors will beat a path straight to the doors of Coolmore in Tipperary to see the vaunted champion sire Galileo. It is imperative to register to visit Coolmore and this can be done here.
It’s important to plan your trip to reach as many farms as possible
The list of famous names alongside Galileo at Coolmore is almost too long to mention, but the farm is open on both days from 10am to 3pm and will have on show its new recruits U S Navy Flag and Saxon Warrior among its roster of 16, the same number that will be available for viewing at sister farm Castle Hyde Stud, the home of Yeats and Starspangledbanner.
Again, it’s important to plan your trip well in order to reach as many farms as possible. Yeomanstown Stud will be open on Friday only but as the home of the celebrated Dark Angel, as well as Camacho, El Kabeir and Gutaifan, it will be high on many lists.
Similarly, Gilltown Stud is another to be open only on Friday, but with Sea The Stars and his Derby-winning son Harzand on show, the Aga Khan’s farm will draw many visitors.
There are many reasons to visit the Irish National Stud on any day of the year but during the stallion trail it will be showing its eight sires, including Invincible Spirit and newer recruits National Defense and Decorated Knight.
Whatever your taste in stallion, there’s a horse to suit every breeder
It’s not too far from there to head on to Darley’s Kildangan Stud, with a 16-strong line-up including Shamardal and new boy Jungle Cat.
Farther south, Ballylinch Stud opens its doors to show off Lope De Vega, Fascinating Rock, New Bay, Make Believe and Beat Hollow, while Joe Foley’s Ballyhane Stud is home to Dandy Man, Elzaam, Prince Of Lir, Red Jazz and Battle Of Marengo.
Close by is Victor Connolly’s Burgage Stud, home to the National Hunt stallions Shantou, Sea Moon and Jukebox Jury.
Whatever your taste in stallion – Flat or jumps, sprinter or stayer – there’s a horse to suit every breeder in Ireland and France over these consecutive weekends.
Regrettably, Britain does not yet have an equivalent showcase but the weekend between the foal and mare sales at Tattersalls in December always serves as a useful unofficial stallion tour for breeders in town for the sales.
Furthermore, the TBA annually organises parades at Tattersalls during the February Sale (January 31 and February 1) for Flat stallions and at Goffs UK in Doncaster on January 22 for the National Hunt boys.