Le Havre: Group 1 sire has died at the age of 16

Le Havre, sire of such top-class performers as Avenir Certain, La Cressionniere and Wonderful Tonight, has died at the age of of 16.

His death comes just weeks following the news that he had been retired from stud duty due to health issues.

As announced by Sumbe on Friday morning, those issues sadly caught up with him on Thursday evening. The operation tweeted: “Le Havre passed away last night following health issues. We have shared amazing moments with him at stud and on the racetrack. Thank you for everything champ.”

Bought by trainer Jean-Claude Rouget for €100,000 at the 2007 Arqana August Yearling Sale, Le Havre developed into a top-flight performer in the colours of Gerard Augustin-Normand, winning four races highlighted by the Prix du Jockey Club. He was also second in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains.

A tendon injury suffered during the Jockey Club prevented Le Havre from running again following his Chantilly triumph and he was retired by Augustin-Normand later that season to stand at the fledging Haras de la Cauviniere in Normandy.

Although a Classic winner, the horse had several commercial hurdles to overcome. Firstly, he was a lightly raced performer of just six starts. And secondly, he was a son of Noverre, who was by then ensconced in India having failed to live up to expectations as a stallion at Kildangan Stud in Ireland. As a result, Le Havre was installed at Haras de la Cauviniere for the 2010 season at a fee of just €5,000. For one classy enough to win the Prix du Jockey Club, that surely represented value, but Augustin-Normand and his advisors would also have been aware that the horse would not have appealed to everyone.

Against that, Le Havre was also out of a mare, Marie Rheinberg, who was a half-sister to the influential sire Polar Falcon; as it turned out, it was his example that Le Havre was to ultimately follow.

Le Havre is proof of how the support of a determined owner-breeder, in his case Gerard Augustin-Normand, can be influential in launching a stallion. In turn, the horse can also be credited as a driving force behind the rise of Augustin-Normand’s racing fortunes and Haras de la Cauviniere (latterly Montfort et Preaux before it was switched to sit under Nurlan Bizakov’s Sumbe banner). 

Le Havre’s retirement to stud in 2010 had coincided with a lull in the French stallion ranks, exacerbated by the retirements or deaths of stalwarts such as Linamix, Highest Honor and Anabaa. But so immediately successful was the horse that today his record consists of 50 stakes winners, five of them at Group 1 level. It is testament to the support of Augustin-Normand, as well as the management of his advisor Sylvain Vidal, that eight of Le Havre’s Group winners have been bred at Montfort et Preaux among them the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and Prix de Diane heroines Avenir Certain and La Cressionniere, both of whom were owned in partnership with Antonio Caro.

France’s champion first-crop sire of 2013, Le Havre’s fee rose from €7,000 to €20,000 following Avenir Certain’s Classic season in 2014 and with 199 mares covered that year, he was France’s second busiest stallion of 2015. In 2017 and 2018, he hit a career-high of €60,000 before coming back down to €40,000.

In all, he left behind five Group 1 winners; in addition to Avenir Certain and La Cressionniere, they include Wonderful Tonight, winner of the 2020 British Champion Fillies and Mares Stakes and Prix de l’Opera for David Menuisier, Shadwell Turf Mile winner Suedois and 2019 Prix de l’Opera winner Villa Marina.

Le Havre is starting to make an impact through his daughters, one of them being La Pyle, the dam of Pyledriver. As for Avenir Certain, she is the dam of Japanese Group 2 winner Des Ailes.

However, with only two minor sons at stud in France, it is unlikely that his sire line will take hold and with that, access to that descending from Blushing Groom diminishes even further. Once a powerful line responsible for Rainbow Quest, Nashwan and Le Havre’s grandsire Rahy, it today hangs by a thread, its fortunes resting on the likes of Rio De La Plata in France and Bago and Animal Kingdom in Japan.

Wonderful Tonight wins the Group 1 Prix de Royallieu under Tony Piccone. Photo: George Selwyn