A short tour of equestrian France: the Prix du Jockey Club (Gr1) at the beginning of June and, for the specialists, an absolute record, that of Ace Impact who not only won but also set the best time ever recorded on the 2100 m Chantilly track. A fortnight later, it was the Prix de Diane Longines (GR1) where Blue Rose Cen, the favourite who drew the number one string, won, thus completing an historic treble for a three-year-old filly: Prix Qatar Marcel Boussac (Gr1), Poule d’essai des pouliches (Gr1)… What a Spring, my friends! And now, after the summer closures of the Parisian racecourses (Longchamp and Auteuil), all eyes (and binoculars) are on Deauville, for its annual meeting.
Stop, stop… stop! Stop! We did not ask this gentleman to give us a sports column ! Exactly! Since the gallop racing calendar (trotting will come soon) allows him to do so, a quick look at his library is in order; certainly not the most complete, exhaustive or richest library on the subject, but the library of a passionate enthusiast built up over the years, through opportunities and outbursts!
So, are you ready for a canter?
Let’s go then… With an easy, engaging, inviting start … This book of images signed by photographer Vincent Godeau and short notes by Christophe Donner who, in a five chapter book published in 2011 by La Martinière, tells the story of a racehorse from birth to glory simply called Le Fabuleux. Any resemblance to the eponymous horse born and bred at the Haras du Quesnay would obviously be pure coincidence.
As you know, Christophe Donner is a journalist (columnist for France Soir, founder of Of Course magazine) and author of : Le cheval qui sourit, illustrated by Philippe Dumas (L’École des loisirs, coll. “Mouche”, 1992); Tempête au haras, (L’École des loisirs, coll. “Neuf”, 2012); Passion Cheval, with Hubert de Watrigant (Les Trois Crayons, 2012), À quoi jouent les hommes? (Grasset, 2012), La Mode aux courses: un siècle d’élégance 1850-1950 with Christophe Dubois Rubio and Christine Germain-Donnat (Liénard, 2014), is passionate about horses, but not only that, he is also the author of some forty other novels. Is he the only journalist whose pen is also ready for books?
Let his colleagues rest assured! Pierrette Brès, Homéric, Jacques Pauc, Jean-François Pré, Emmanuel Roussel, the late André Théron and all those we have forgotten here, other summers will follow!
Even in comics.
Another purely illustrated and rather anecdotal work, Pur-sang, a singular album dealing exclusively with the racehorse, by Franz Drappier (1948-2003), also known as Franz, born in Charleroi, a Belgian comic strip artist and scriptwriter who won the Grand Prix Saint-Michel in 1982 for the first volume of Lester Cockney, one of his best comic strip series.
With Pur-sang, Franz indulges himself with a dozen or so short true or fictionalised stories featuring horses, jockeys, trainers, punters and legendary races. The preface is signed by Renaud (Renaud Depauw), his colleague with whom, as a Sunday rider, he loved to “Ride” in the forest. You read that right: Capital R for the Sunday ride, which says a lot…
Published by Éditions du Lombard in 1985, Pur-sang found a place in the aptly named Phylactère collection, a Greek noun used to designate small bubbles with a tail or appendage, the tip of which shows the character speaking.
Exactly a century ago (1903), Ernest Thélem, painter, illustrator, horse-racing poster artist and, above all, humorist (didn’t he found the Société des dessinateurs humoristes?) amused the racing world with the tribulations of this owner, Monsieur Patardot – not that old – who, buoyed by his recent business success and in search of fame, decides to buy himself a racing stable!
An illustrated hardback from the publisher (Société française d’éditions d’art), a large oblong in-4 with around fifty pages where the humour, sometimes heavier than the pencil, prevails from start to finish.
And we go back even further in time, to the end of the 19th century, the Belle Époque. Horse racing had found its place in society, and betting contributed to its development. It didn’t escape the attention of this artist with his sharp eye and eloquent pen that the horse, in all its forms – but above all in society – inspires. With Sur le turf, Crafty, whose real name was Victor Cérusez (1840-1906), produced the richest work he ever published. He also published Paris au bois, Paris à Cheval, La province à cheval, L’équitation puérile et honnête, etc., almost all with the same publisher, which deserves to be named: Librairie Plon, E. Plon, Nourrit et Cie.
Not a page without a plate, a drawing, a sketch, a crobar, a cabochon, a vignette.
After painting a cheerful picture of the activity particularly in Paris, its “mechanism”, Crafty takes us, over more than 400 pages, in the wake of the gallopers and the men they fascinate, to Chantilly, La Croix de Berny, Marly-Le-Roi, Auteuil, Colombes, Fontainebleau, Saint-Ouen, Enghien, Maisons-Laffitte, La Marche, Rambouillet, Longchamp, Caen, Deauville, Dieppe, Pau, Vincennes. So many places and people whose names are, for the most part, still as familiar to horse enthusiasts today as they were in the past, starting with Baron Finot (1826-1906), a horse dealer, breeder and owner of one of the greatest steeplechase stables of his time, but above all, he was also a talented draughtsman and watercolourist, whose hunting scenes contributed to his fame.
Written by Georges de la Fouchardière (1874-1946) in 1923, Le Petit guide du parieur aux courses, published by Éditions du siècle, broke records for the number of times it was published, with the edition we are presenting here being the 15th of its kind, in the very year it was launched! It has also had a long run, being reissued 99 years later, in 2022, by Éditions de la Germonière. The key to its success? Satyrdom, humour and good advice, all from a universe that seems to exist only to generate it!
The author, a journalist, began his career at Paris-Sport in 1908 with a whimsical column, then joined Le Canard enchaîné where, in the same vein, he created a series based around a quasi-legendary character: Alfred Bicard, known as “le Bouif”, whom he later developed into the heroes of crime novels. The world of racing is omnipresent in his work. Le crime du Bouif, for example, opens with the discovery of the body of a flayed and decapitated man perched in a tree near a Parisian racecourse.
Georges de La Fouchardière had already tried his hand at this genre in 1910, notably in La Machine à Galoper, published by Éditions Tournayre in the collection known as “les romans fantaisistes”, which says a lot about the subject, and which was republished in 1919, this time under the title L’Affaire Peau-de-Balle, by Librairie des Lettres.
La Fouchardière also wrote a number of screenplays, including Le Bouif chez les pur-sang, a medium-length film directed by Léo Joannon in 1934.
Is this really acceptable on the World Horse Library website? We are talking here about daring to publish the definitions of Francis Claude, author of the Dictionnaire des courses et du tiercé – presented by Léon Zitrone, published in 1964 by Éditions de la Pensée Moderne and illustrated by G. de Sainte-Croix, who shows a completely different side of his talent on the dust jacket of this 1/8 hardback.
The author (but he must not have been alone) lets loose from beginning to end in a style not far removed from that of Philippe Bouvard’s vintage “Grosses têtes”, with whom he must have worked.
A case in point? Right from letter A, with Avoine (oats): “the symbolic staple food of the racehorse. When we say of a horse ‘he earns his oats’ it means that he will not put his owner out to pasture, without going so far as to put hay in his boots…”. Would you like us to look at “Paddock”?
Zitrone then! Léon Zitrone! One of the most popular journalists from the 1960s to the 90s, who did not hesitate to caricature himself in an autobiography entitled Big Léon (Hachette/Carrère, 1989).
A veritable salesman for racing and the tiercé, Léon Zitrone has written a number of books over the last thirty years that are as easy to read as they are popular, using and abusing the fame of the star journalist of the “première chaine” to “sell”.
These include : Léon Zitrone vous emmène aux courses à l’heure du tiercé (Del Duca, 1962), Léon Zitrone, Mon tiercé, peut-on gagner (Solar, 1964), Au bout de mes jumelles (Buchet/Chastel, 1975), Chevaux et grandes courses (Nathan, 1981), L’Arc en vingt cinq triomphes (in fact, it serves as the “pavilion” for the work of Henri Duthu and Marc Gaillard for Lavauzelle Sport, 1990), La vie d’un cheval de course (Hachette pratique, 1992), etc.
Why have we chosen here Vingt chevaux et un cœur (Solar, 1968)? Because under this title, which, on the face of it, was designed to appeal to the general public, is a preface in the form of a wink and a declaration of love to his wife, Laura, whose full-page photo at the heart of the book proves that she really does love horses. And that he loves her! That’s Zitrone and the paradoxes of a workaholic with an ogre’s appetite, who is still the talk of the town today, judging by the recent acid comments made by his successor on the “front page”: Pierrette Brès!
Vingt chevaux et un cœur, Léon Zitrone, Solar, 1968
We could mention so many other horse-racing journalists who at one time or another took the plunge into publishing: from Eugène Chapus, who in 1853 published the first historical book of its kind, Le turf ou les courses de chevaux en France et à l’étranger (Ed. Hachette et Cie), which in 1890 preceded Les courses de Chevaux en France (Ed. Hachette et Cie) by Albert Huot de Longchamp de Saint Albin (see article below) and Les courses en France et à l’étranger (Ed. Lahure) signed in 1894 by SF Touchstone, pseudonym of M.Teyssier des Farges.
In 1914, Henry Lee’s monumental Historique des courses de chevaux en France et à l’étranger (Charpentier et Fasquelle), also featured later in this chronicle, was published.
Maurice de Noisay, one of the great names in horseracing journalism between the wars, followed with Tableau des courses (Ed. de la Nouvelle Revue Française, 1921), then Voilà les courses (Ed. du Siècle, 1925). After the Liberation, Jean Trarieux went on to write Journal d’un homme de courses 1900-1945 (Ed. Paillard, 1945) and Les courses dévoilées (Ed. Calmann Levy, 1947).
Zoo and Beasts
So 1947. It was precisely in this year that Henri Thétard, after a first column on the horse entitled Évolution du cirque et de l’hippodrome, found in the Miroir du Monde of 20 December 1930, published his one and only book on the racehorse Histoire et secrets du turf (Ed. Robert Laffont, 1947). Henri Thétard (1884-1968) was a case in point! A sort of Jack-of-all-trades! He was a journalist, notably at the Petit Parisien and later at the Revue des deux mondes, where he wrote articles on racing and the circus. Before the Great War, when he served as an artilleryman, he played the role of bellicose with great circus figures such as Alfred Court and then François Bidel, the famous tamer, and gradually became interested in everything to do with the circus world.
He was promoted to zoo director for the 1931 Colonial Exhibition on the recommendation of Marshal Lyautey, whom he had met in Algeria during his military service, and went on to found the Club du Cirque in 1949. A man of many facets, we learn from a preface that the writer Edmond Jaloux wrote in 1934 for Coulisses et secrets du cirque (Librairie Plon, les petits fils de Plon et Nourrit) that his penchant for horses, like his eccentric career, came from his father: “Mr Henry Thétard may have been led to this knowledge (the horse NDL) by the hazards of his adventurous life, but I think he owes it more to his vocation. His father, who is now a retired Major General, is a remarkable horseman. Mr Henry Thétard was initially destined for military life, but its preparation has an abstract side that was not at all his doing. After doing his military service in Algeria, where Marshal Lyautey got him out of more than one scrape, it was on his return that he joined Crédit Lyonnais as an employee. I think that, of all the forms of human activity (if I dare say so), this was the one least capable of satisfying Mr Thétard’s restless spirit”. The author of numerous works such as Les Dompteurs ou la ménagerie des origines à nos jours (Gallimard, 1928 ), La Merveilleuse Histoire du Cirque in two volumes (Prisma, 1947), Des hommes des bêtes, (édition de la Table ronde, 1947) in which he retraced the history of the modern circus from its birth to the Second World War, was he the most qualified on the horse for us to dwell on it in this chronicle. Will reading the foreword to his book (see facsimile, opposite) convince you?
The Pope said
Guy Thibault’s book is the antithesis of “Big Léon”, and among his other works, Un autre regard sur les courses (Castelet, 2007), we follow in the footsteps of Henry Lee (to be continued); a journey through three centuries of horseracing in France, beginning in 1683 with the first international race under the watchful eye of Louis XIV, who in 1715 signed the purchase of the land on which the Le Pin stud farm was to be built. The book, which is remarkably well illustrated (with over 500 photos, many of them previously unpublished), has won rave reviews from the racing world and has even been cited in various works on the history of racing in the UK, such as this article by Mike Higgins published in The International Journal of the History of Sport (Volume 36, issue 17-18) in 2019. The latest is his lengthy account of the Queen of England’s visit to the famous Normandy stud farms in 1967, quoted in the biography Elisabeth II, dans l’intimité du règne by Isabelle Rivière (Fayard, 2022).
Guy Thibault has written many other reference works. After trying his hand at an ABC des courses (Ed. Vendôme, 1966), he revived L’épopée de Gladiateur (UNIC, 1990), or the story of the eventful and triumphant life of the first French horse to win the Epsom Derby in 1865. In Au cœur des Jockeys (Marcadier, 1995), he shed light on the profession and its development over more than a century and a half of racing, and sketched twenty-four portraits of the racing greats.
With the two volumes, Auteuil, hier et aujourd’hui, 1831-1915 (Castellet, 1998), and volume II (1916-2003) published the same year by the same publisher, he has published an unrivalled anthology of the discipline. Do we need to dwell on Un siècle de galop 1900-2000, which was published just in time to celebrate a century of racing at the turn of the third millennium (Filippachi éditions, 2001)?
Who was Henry Lee?
Guy Thibaut is more of a historian than a journalist, and in this column we use him as a transition to look back at Henry Lee, a colleague from the past who, a century before him, wrote the major, if not seminal, work that has already been announced: Historique des courses de chevaux en France et à l’étranger (History of horse racing in France and abroad).
Not much is known about Henry Lee, whose real name was Edgard Lée. He was a horse racing journalist with the daily newspaper Le Temps (1861-1942). And we will have to keep on poking around, because Histoire des courses de chevaux de l’antiquité à ce jour, published in 1914, is a unique work of research and iconographic documentation, 888 pages illustrated with 22 black plates out of the text and 63 black engravings in the text, which deserves to be better known by its author, who spent six years working on it. Mr Lée is quite an odd one! The proof is in the long preface, in which he explains that as a schoolboy he organised foot races in which the participants were named after famous racehorses of the day! It was a game that decided his career, the day when, as a young boy, taking advantage of two invitations that one of his friends had obtained from his uncle who was a member of the famous Jockey Club, he bet 5 francs, at Longchamp, on a horse named Saint-Christophe, which was his “patronymic” for foot races, which beat the favourite Jongleur by a head, at a handicap of 66/1!
Returning to the book, the table of contents is eloquent as to its contents, which are divided into ten volumes: In Antiquity – In England from its origins to the end of 1833 – In France from its origins to the end of 1833 – From 1834 to the end of 1856 – From 1857 to the end of 1870 – From 1871 to the end of 1890 – From 1891 to the end of 1913 – The thoroughbred breed – Winners of major events – Decrees ordinances laws and decrees.
But it’s the conclusion that really blows you away! It could have been written yesterday, more than a century later, and still be relevant today. Doubtless because, as the author warns in his preface, “this work, we wish to state emphatically, is a work of independence and good faith. We are not subservient to any school of thought, and the very severity of our assessments is justified by the aim we have pursued, which is to safeguard national breeding against all particular interests”.
Robert Milton, from Le Figaro
We could call him “Founder”….”To be perfectly honest, can we ignore Les courses de chevaux en France, published by Librairie Hachette et Cie and signed by Albert de Luot de Longchamp de Saint-Albin in 1890, thus predating Henry Lee’s book? Mennessier de la Lance tells us in a short article, and in the concise style for which he is known, that he is a “French writer, 1843-1901. He first worked for Sport, which his father ran, and then took over the management of Le Jockey in 1884. It was he who created the reports on races and sporting issues in Le Figaro, which he signed Robert Milton. He also wrote numerous plays and works on fencing. He was the founder of the Jockeys’ and Stablesmen’s Hospital in Chantilly”.
Saint-Albin’s precedence over Lee is therefore factual and is also evident from the table of contents of this first overview of racing in France. Judge for yourself: The origin and purpose of racing; the Société d’Encouragement in the face of criticism; breeding issues; the main breeding establishments; weaning foals and training yearlings; the training stable and its staff; the trainer and the jockey; langé and the training of steeplechasers; steeplechases; profiles of sportsmen; profiles of trainers and jockeys; The handicapper, judge and starter; Parisian and suburban racecourses; Chantilly; The Grand Prix de Paris; Twenty penny turf; Gambling at the races; Sport and women; Racing in the provinces; Our successes in England; Trotting races; Dictionary of terms used on the turf; Alphabetical list of meetings; Alphabetical list of owners.
Justice is done!
A doctor but above all a Limousin
Nicole de Blomac’s work comes later but is in the same vein as Henry Lee’s (and therefore Saint Albin’s), which justifies its place here. In fact, doesn’t she also refer to them, by name, in the book we have here, La gloire et le jeu, des hommes et des chevaux (1766-1866), in 1991?
Reading the dust jacket on the back cover sets the tone: “At the end of the winter of 1766, in front of the assembled court at the Plaine des Sablon, which had been transformed into a racecourse, the Duc de Brancas challenged an English gentleman on horseback. This marked the beginning of racing in France. The Duke, although beaten, did not give up. With a handful of wealthy aristocrats who shared his taste for the game and his love of glory, he fought to introduce to France horses that had been rigorously selected for generations by English breeders and that would come to be known as “thoroughbreds”. Soon, at Vincennes and Fontainebleau alike, the privileged thronged to admire horses whose pedigree reflected that of their breeders and owners […]”.
Nicole de Blomac was a breeder of Anglo-Arab horses for thirty years, but above all she was a doctor of history, graduating from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in 2002 (in her seventies), which she joined in the 1980s after defending a thesis on her favourite subject: Le cheval, moyen et mode de vie. L’œuvre du marquis de Voyer, militaire, philosophe et entrepreneur (1722-1782). Two years later, she published Voyer d’Argenson et le cheval des Lumières, published by Belin, with a preface by Daniel Roche, who also recently passed away and who had assisted her with her thesis. In addition to La gloire et le jeu, the historian also published, with Bernadette Barrière, Cheval limousin, chevaux en Limousin (Pulim, 2006), a collective work on the history of the regional saddle horse that she loved so much.
Close to home
Regionalism… Proximity… These are the words that come to mind when you first get your hands on this little book entitled Autour du turf. Men and Horses of the South-West by Francis de Luze, (Delmas, 1946). Only one thousand copies were printed, making it a rarity among the works reviewed in this chronicle. So it’s hardly surprising that the author was looking for a preface writer in tune with his project; a local and regional figure, namely the Viscount de Vaufreland (1874-1954), a leading figure in the Anglomania that reigned in the first half of this century and who chaired, among other activities with and around horses, the Société béarnaise du demi-sang, as we learn from Xavier Bogon, a racing historian who sadly passed away too soon, in 2021, in one of his pieces of research on Pau races.
A Saint-Cyr student and cavalry officer, Vaufreland was also secretary to the crew of the Pau Hunt, famous for its drags.
Also gifted with a fine pencil stroke, the Viscount amused us with a number of well-written albums, including one entitled “Croquis de Saint Cyr” (Printed by Eyméoud, circa 1900), which humorously portrayed the life of officers at the famous school.
However, it was Eugène Blocaille (1873-1961) who Francis de Luze entrusted with the task of illustrating his work, which in some respects could almost be described as intimate, in keeping with its title. You can tell that the artist knows what he’s talking about, with numerous evocations of Pau’s equestrian past, cross-country and steeplechase paintings, fox hunts, etc. Blocaille is on the side and many of his works can be seen at the Cercle Anglais de Pau, an association, a sort of private ‘British’ club, whose origins date back to 1828 and which holds and preserves a collection of objets d’art, paintings, furniture and books listed in the Inventaire Supplémentaire des Monuments Historiques (ISMH).
Who was the author of this particular work? A cavalry officer during the First World War (hence, perhaps, his links with the Viscount of Vaufreland?), Francis de Luze was wounded and decorated for his feats of arms. According to the vineyard’s website, he joined “the family business in 1925 and devoted himself not only to developing the business, but also to equestrian sports. He chaired the Bordeaux racing club as well as the Fédération Française des Sports Equestres (Sud-Ouest) and sat on the board of the Société hippique française (SHF). A remarkable financier, he effectively steered the various companies through the pitfalls of the Great Depression and the Second World War.”
Conclusion? A passionate horseman, attentive and aware of the cause, whether equestrian (racing) or equestrian (riding), keen to share it with fairness and empathy for his environment and his region, in order to protect and believe in its future.
Jean Stern, since it’s worth naming one
Published by the Nouvelle Édition Française in 1932 – Paris is large and imposing, if only “physically”: folio, XXVII-(2)-302 pp. There were 125 copies of the first edition, all numbered. The coats of arms (casaques) are coloured by stencil and an in-text photo in black illustrates the history of each stable.
This is a remarkable work in which the group who undertook it – and we’d like to know who was in charge if it wasn’t, we wonder, the preface writer Jean Stern himself – accurately presents the portraits of the great coats of arms of the era. Some sixty in all. Of these “great houses”, at least two are still in existence. The blue and yellow of Baron Edouard de Rothshild, grandson and current Chairman of France Galop, and the blue and white of the Wertheimer brothers (see opposite) still stand out – proof, to say the least, of passion and “savoir-faire”.
Jean Stern (1874-1962), a banker by trade, was a gentleman. First and foremost, he was a great sportsman. A skilled fencer, he won a gold medal in team fencing at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, aged thirty-four. So it should come as no surprise (thank you, Wikipedia) that four years earlier, on 18 January 1904, he fought a duel with Robert de Montesquiou to make up for an article the latter had written criticising his mother. A simple sparring match!
But he was first and foremost an accomplished cavalryman who did his military service in the cavalry and served as a captain in the army during the Great War. Henry Thétard (him again!) reminds us of this in a serious three-page article published in the Revue des Deux Mondes (1829-1971) on 15 July 1961 (p. 327-329) after Cousin Pons’s victory at Auteuil, a fine tribute to the horseman. “At the end of the last century, as a young second lieutenant in the chasseurs à cheval, he rode his own horses at Auteuil, competing with his cousin Michel Stern, the ace gentlemen rider who was to be killed in the race. At the same time, he declared his coat to be white with sky blue stars, whereas Michel Stern’s was strewn with red stars […]”.
Rider, gentleman-rider and soon owner-breeder of horses at the Saint-Pair-du-Mont stud farm, in a place known as Le Cadran near Cambremer in the Calvados region, which led him to preside over several horse racing societies, notably the one in Chantilly. He was also a button on the Par Monts et Vallons team, owned by the Count of Valon.
As owner, Jean Stern won the prestigious Grand Steeple Chase de Paris four times: in 1905 with Canar, then twice consecutively (1946 and 1947) with Lindor, and finally in 1961 with Cousin Pons ridden by the crack jockey Jean Daumas, who collected the record of five victories in this legendary event in his career, including three in a row with the mare Hyeres III. Unrivalled.
On the flat, too, Jean Stern’s production is unrivalled.
In his July column, Henry Thétard noted the success of Sicambre, who was to become one of the most highly recommended stallions of the century: “[…] proved to be the best three-year-old of his generation, winning all the races he has contested since the start of the season: Prix de Guiché, Prix Greffulhe, Prix Hocquart, Prix du Jockey-Club and finally the Grand Prix de Longchamp, which has created so many millionaires thanks to the Sweepstakes. Few horses have done better in the annals of sport, where the name Sicambre will henceforth be inseparable from that of Mr Jean Stern, who must be particularly proud of it. Jean Stern, who must be particularly pleased.”
But we cannot end this portrait without mentioning the writer. Fascinated by Balzac, he wrote, under the pseudonym Maurice Serval, a good half dozen works revolving around his work. He is a member of the Société d’histoire littéraire de la France. In 1931, he was awarded the Prix Charles-Blanc in 1931 for a book published by Plon in 1930 under his real name: “À l’ombre de Sophie Arnould François-Joseph Belanger Architecte des Menus Plaisirs, Premier Architecte du Comte d’Artois”. The text is illustrated with 61 engravings of garden plants, facades and palace interiors, but that’s not all! Doesn’t the title mention his position as architect des menus-plaisirs, which linked him to the world of Versailles in Marie-Antoinette’s time, as the man responsible for the court’s festivities and ceremonies? The story would then be about his love affair with the famous singer Sophie Arnould…
And what about the horse?
Let’s go back to Henri Thétard, again in this article from La Revue des deux Mondes, to mention, under his own byline, this hard-to-find book in its original livery Les courses de Chantilly sous la Monarchie de Juillet (1913): “[…] The erudite historian of the turf, who has written a work on Les Courses de Chantilly sous la monarchie de Juillet and is currently preparing a book on Lord Seymour […]”. Which will never be published. This was eighteen months before his death.