02/06/2017 12:40PM

Sparkman: Le Havre emerges as unexpected savior

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Barbara D. Livingston
Rymska, by Le Havre, wins the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Among the many great performances in Breeders’ Cup history few, if any, have been more visually impressive or more exciting than Arazi’s mad dash through and around almost the entire field in the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The diminutive chestnut with offset knees looked like a cheetah scattering elephants as he zipped through the field before drawing off to win by an eased-down five lengths.

Those offset knees derailed the subsequent career of the brilliant son of Blushing Groom and bedeviled his stud career, where he produced only one worthy son, multiple Grade 1 winner Congaree, whose knees were even worse than his sire’s.

Arazi’s younger three-quarter brother, Noverre, by Blushing Groom’s son Rahy, was not so brilliant, but he still counted the Group 1 Sussex Stakes among his three stakes wins. Noverre was a much better sire than Arazi despite limited opportunities – he ended his career in India – and his best son Le Havre, sire of Grade 3 Sweetest Chant Stakes winner Rymska, has emerged as an unexpected savior of the waning Blushing Groom male line.

Bred in Ireland by Anna Sundstrom and Team Hogdala, Le Havre sold for 100,000 euros (about $135,000) to French trainer Jean-Claude Rouget, bidding on behalf of Gerard Augustin-Normand, at the 2007 Arqana Deauville yearling sale. He raced only six times, winning his first two starts at 2 before disappointing badly as the favorite in the Group 1 Criterium International.

Le Havre captured the listed Prix Djebel in his first start at 3, but could not catch Silver Frost in the classic Poule d’Essai des Poulains, the French 2000 Guineas equivalent, finishing second, beaten two lengths. Le Havre had his revenge on Silver Frost a month later in the French Derby, the Prix du Jockey-Club over about 1 5/16 miles, rallying to beat Fuisse by 1 1/2 lengths in a field that, in retrospect, was underwhelming at best.

Le Havre suffered a tendon injury in the French Derby that forced his retirement to Sylvain and Elisabeth Vidal’s Haras de la Cauviniere in 2010. Out of a half-sister to Group 1 winner Polar Falcon, sire of the great English sire Pivotal, from the great French and English family tracing to his sixth dam Schiaparelli, by Schiavoni, Le Havre possessed sufficient pedigree, good looks, and race record to attract a representative, though not overly large, book.

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He made a sensational start with his first crop when his daughter Avenir Certain (out of Puggy, by Mark of Esteem) swept the French 1000 Guineas and Oaks equivalents, the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and the Prix de Diane in 2014. That first crop also included Group 2 winner Auvray (Ameyrah, by In the Wings), Group 3 winners Suedois (Cup Cake, by Singspiel) and Queen Bee (Pan Tadeus, by Kyllachy), and five other stakes winners. His third crop included an even better filly in the unbeaten La Cressonniere (Absolute Lady, by Galileo), whose eight consecutive victories also include the 2016 French Guineas and Oaks.

Rymska is the only stakes winner to date from Le Havre’s fourth crop. She is the only winner from the first four foals out of Foreign Raider, a winning daughter of the moderate stallion Lend a Hand, who is a half-sister to the dam of stakes winner Avenue Argent, by Kendargent. Rymska’s second dam, Chania, by In the Wings, ran second in the Group 2 Pretty Polly Stakes and is a half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Creator, by Mill Reef. Rymska’s third dam, Chalon, by Habitat, was a top-class miler who won the Group 2 (now Group 1) Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Le Havre has done particularly well with mares that carry the ubiquitous Sadler’s Wells in their pedigree – La Cressonniere, Auvray, and Suedois are all out of Sadler’s Wells-line mares – and Rymska’s pedigree shares that affinity since In the Wings, sire of her second dam, was one of Sadler’s Wells’s first stakes winners.

Overall, Le Havre has sired 18 stakes winners from his 359 foals ages 3 and up, a 5 percent stakes-winners-to-foals ratio that needs to improve for Le Havre to earn a place among Europe’s truly elite sires. It also is true that 13 of those 18 stakes winners are fillies, and his two best sons to date – Auvray and Suedois – are both geldings.

Given his early success though, Le Havre’s stud fee has climbed to 60,000 euros, and he is now attracting far better mares. With that improved opportunity, he may yet rescue the Blushing Groom male line from oblivion.