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By David Wilkinson

French Breeding/English Training: Early Successes

Henry Seymour and the Duc d’Orléans dominated early racing and each started the importation of English racing skills. Seymour brought over Thomas Carter as his trainer with Thomas Robinson (brother of Jem, England's leading jockey) as jockey. With this team he won the Prix du Jockey Club four times from his establishment at Chatigny, near Versailles. The Duc similarly imported George Edwards with his staff. He won the Grand Prix de Paris on three occasions and with Beggarman he won the Goodwood Cup in 1840, beating Pocahontas.

Royal Oak
Royal Oak (1825, by Catton-mare by Smolensko) was imported in 1833 and became one of the most influential of the early English thoroughbred stallions in France, getting many winners, notably Prix du Jockey Club winner Poetess, later dam of Monarque and the good race mare Hervine.
Seymour, who was so influential in the establishment of modern French racing, was born in Paris and never lived in England. He was the eccentric second son of the Marquis of Hertford with a French mother, Maria Fagniani, who was in receipt of a fortune left by two members of the English Jockey Club, George Selwyn and Lord Queensbury (referred to as "Q"), who believed she had a "daughter's claim" on them. He never married, and was a rather crude practitioner of practical jokes. On his death he left his fortune to four of his horses (on condition that they never ran again) and several Paris hospitals.

Seymour imported significant horses from England including Ibrahim and Royal Oak, the sire of Poetess and through her ancestor of Gladiateur, and equally of importance, he brought in English stable talent.
By 1842 there were 200 horses stabled at Chantilly, with twelve English trainers, and by 1845 this number reached twenty. These trainers, together with their families, formed a complex colony of "les anglais" with intricate intermarrying, which persisted for over a century. Some families, such as the Heads, are still active and successful today.

The Jennings, Carters, Cunningtons and Watsons were among those English trainers who formed dynasties that were the basis of French racing success and would eventually successfully challenge the English on their own turf.

Alexandre Aumont
Alexandre Aumont
Count Frederick de Lagrange
Comte Frédérick de Lagrange
Alexandre Aumont, a French industrialist, took over his brother Eugène's stables, which had been started under the Englishman Thomas Carter in about 1836, after the Tontine scandal. Later he employed another English trainer Tom Jennings and founded a stud at Victot near Caen.

In 1851 Aumont's horse Hervine (out of Seymour's Poetess), was the best racehorse on the continent, and ran second to Jouvenence in the Goodwood Cup. In 1855 Monarque (probably by Emperor out of Poetess) won most of the continental races for Aumont, but was unplaced in the Steward's Cup and Cesarewitch in England.

In 1852 an ailing Aumont sold out to Comte Frédérick de Lagrange (1816-1883). Legrange was the son of one of Napoleon’s generals and a successful businessman. In his time he was the greatest of French owner-breeders and took France into international racing. Above all he bred Gladiateur (by Monarque out of Miss Gladiator by imported Gladiator) and had him trained by Tom Jennings in Newmarket to win the English Triple Crown of 1865, including his famous Waterloo-avenging Derby. The horse ridden by the short-sighted Tom Grimshaw, won the 1866 Ascot Gold Cup by 40 lengths. He had also won the Grand Prix de Paris in 1865. The English Press said, "When Gladiateur gallops, the other horses stand still."

Lagrange formed a confederacy with Baron Nivière, and Henry Jennings trained for them at Lamorlaye. They also had other establishments; Dangu at Chantilly, and Phantom House at Newmarket. The latter was under Tom Jennings who had returned to England in 1857 with the great Monarque. The syndicate became the fifth largest owner in England, and Monarque won the Goodwood Cup in the same year.

Longchamp and the Grand Prix de Paris

In the mid-19th century French race courses were in a parlous condition, with little popular support, compared to the 100,000-plus spectators who attended the St. Leger or English Derby. Racing had failed to become part of popular culture. It remained in the hands of a narrow elite and was in economic terms non-viable. It needed an injection of money from a paying throng and a more accessible system to permit mass gambling.

Longchamp in 1862
The plain of Longchamp in 1862 -- Close to Paris, it became a popular and fashionable "new" entertainment as soon as the first race was run there in April, 1857

It was realised that a new course was required in Paris to attract a paying crowd. Chantilly was too far from the capital, and could only be reached by a difficult train journey. Owners and breeders also cast covetous eyes on the money, which at that time could be made by successfully competing for the prize money on English turf.

Gladiateur statue at Longchamp
Statue of Gladiateur at Longchamp. Bred for Lagrange at Tom Carter's stud in Vineuil, and trained at Newmarket by Tom Jennings. He won the English Triple Crown in 1865, and in France, the Grand Prix de Paris. "One of the best horses in any century to grace the turf." Photo: David Wilkinson
After long negotiations with the Paris city authorities, Longchamp was born in the Bois de Boulogne, with the first races held on the last Sunday in April, 1857. The Emperor Napoleon III and his wife Eugénie were present, having sailed down the Seine River on their private yacht to watch the third race. Although it rained heavily, the meeting was a great success with the crowd and the Société d' Encouragment decided to run Autumn as well as Spring meetings.

In 1863 after discussions with Admiral Rous, the Société decided, to institute a new international race, the Grand Prix de Paris, for 3 year olds over one mile-seven furlongs (now 2400 metres), with prize money and an object d'art, as a gift from the emperor for the winner. They were hoping to attract English runners, but this did not meet with immediate approval. The English were against racing on a Sunday and the French felt the English would win anyway; they were correct, as Mr. Savile's Ranger (by Voltigeur) won the first race.

Longchamp flourished, aided by its proximity to Paris. The Parisians came dressed up for the occasion, drank heavily, and above all they gambled. Today Longchamp is one of the world's most elegant courses and the venue for Europe's premier race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, for three year olds and upwards over 2400 metres. It was instituted in 1920 to celebrate the end of World War I, and is held every year on the first Sunday in October.

Escalation of the French Invasion of England

The troubles of the Franco-Prussian War (July 1870-May 1871) had a profound affect on French society and caused Frédérick de Lagrange to sell most of his bloodstock. After the war, Lagrange and Lefèvre began a new "big stable" and by 1876 they were the leading owners in England, with over 100 horses and considerable success.

The English were not amused and accused the French of doping and switching pedigrees. Lord Falmouth pressed Admiral Rous to get reciprocity for English horses to race freely in France. There was considerable shock and jealousy among the English racing community at the French success, and the usually mild Matthew Dawson, England's greatest trainer of the time, at Newmarket, gave vent to his feelings and physically set upon poor Tom Jennings who was seen to be in charge of the French invaders.

Les Anglais in France
IntroductionCross-Channel Exchanges The Families Reminiscence:
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