In the week before the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the process began of dispersing the bloodstock of one of the most successful breeding operations to figure on the great race’s role of honour. Daniel Wildenstein won the Arc four times; with Allez France in 1974, All Along in 1983, Sagace in 1984 (also disqualified after being first past the post a year later), and Peintre Celebre in 1997, and is commemorated with a Group 2 contest run in his name on the eve of the big race.
The famous colours – royal blue, light blue cap – have been carried by three generations of the Wildenstein family for almost a hundred years. Georges Wildenstein founded les bleus in 1923, but it was under the guidance of his son Daniel that the Wildenstein colours enjoyed their greatest period of success in the latter decades of the twentieth century. That success was not restricted to France. In 1976, for example, Flying Water, Pawneese and Crow each won British classics – the 1000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger.. Pawneese also won the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes that year, while Flying Water went on to win the 1977 Champion Stakes and Crow the 1978 Coronation Cup.
In North America, the Wildenstein operation took the name of Allez France Stables but it was their second Arc winner All Along who made the biggest impact across the Atlantic, following her Longchamp success with a hat-trick in the Rothmans International, Turf Classic and Washington D.C. International which earned her US Horse of the Year honours in 1983. A year later, All Along finished second in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Success at the Breeders’ Cup came not long afterwards when Steinlen won the 1989 Mile having won the Arlington Million earlier the same year. Four years later, Arcangues (by Steinlen’s relative Sagace, the third Wildenstein Arc winner) caused the biggest upset in Breeders’ Cup history when winning the Classic at Santa Anita on his first start on dirt.
Arcangues was also a rare example of a major Wildenstein winner being sired by another. Where Wildenstein-bred stallions have made their mark at stud, it has mainly been as National Hunt sires – Pistolet Bleu, Buckskin and Westerner, for example. The last-named pair were both dual winners of the Prix du Cadran, while Westerner also won the Gold Cup and finished second in the Arc.
Peintre Celebre, who was retired to Coolmore after his Arc win (he was the only Wildenstein colt to win either the Prix du Jockey Club or the Grand Prix de Paris) has been a successful flat stallion, siring the likes of Champion Stakes winner Pride (also runner-up in an Arc and the dam of One Foot In Heaven who contested this year’s race) and Ecurie Wildenstein’s Hong Kong Vase winner Vallee Enchantee. Ecurie Wildenstein became the official name for les bleus when Alec Wildenstein inherited his father’s bloodstock in 2001 before his own death in 2008, since when Wildenstein Stables Ltd passed to Alec’s brother Guy and nephew David.
Beauty Parlour‘s win in the 2012 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches turned out to be the final major victory for the Wildenstein operation in France. When Miss France won the 1000 Guineas two years later, although very much a product of the Wildenstein breeding operation (Dayton Investments Ltd) and a daughter of Daniel Wildenstein’s 1995 Prix Marcel Boussac winner Miss Tahiti, she ran in the name of Ballymore Thoroughbred Ltd which signalled the start of the break-up of the family’s bloodstock empire.
It was Beauty Parlour’s first foal, a yearling by Dubawi named Being There, who stole the headlines when bought by John Ferguson for €1.4m at Goffs in Ireland in the week before the Arc. The colt was among 17 yearlings sold during the first phase of the Wildenstein dispersal which also included 40 horses in training. However, another significant buyer was White Birch Farm who failed to secure Beauty Parlour’s yearling but succeeded in buying four other lots totalling €1.32m.
They were the Dubawi two-year-old Pavini (€600,000) and Smart Strike three-year-old Painter’s Muse (€60,000), half-sisters out of Peintre Celebre’s three-parts sister Peinture Rare who won the Prix de Pomone; the yearling filly Pale Moon (€360,000), by Dansili out of the Prix Maurice de Gheest winner Porlezza; and the two-year-old colt Achibueno (€300,000), a son of Dansili from the family of Arcangues.
White Birch Farm belongs to New York businessman Peter Brant (a cousin of Joseph Allen), part-owner of the 1984 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Swale and breeder of another US champion three-year-old colt, the 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch, as well as that horse’s sire Gulch who ran in Brant’s colours. Racing is just one of the connections between Brant and the Wildensteins; the art world is another significant one, Brant being an important collector. Brant and Daniel Wildenstein were both owners with D. Wayne Lukas (trainer of Steinlen) in the 1980s.
Brant’s Goffs purchases are not the first time he has acquired Wildenstein bloodstock either. Back in the late 1970s, along with George Strawbridge, he privately purchased Daniel Wildenstein’s Man O’War Stakes and Turf Classic winner Waya. She was a half-sister to the dam of Westerner’s dam Walensee who won the Prix Vermeille. Waya became champion older female for her new owners in 1979 and successfully added to her Grade 1 turf wins when taking the Top Flight Handicap on her dirt debut.
In November, Goffs will complete the dispersal of Wildenstein Stables Ltd with the sale of 20 foals, 27 broodmares and a couple of fillies out of training. It will be interesting to see if White Birch Farm makes any more purchases. Among the broodmares on offer will be Beauty Parlour herself, her Invincible Spirit half-sister Blue Kimono, and the aforementioned Peinture Rare. Descendants of other Wildenstein stars mentioned above include Adventure Seeker, a granddaughter of All Along, Poughkeepsie, a twenty-four-year-old daughter of Sadler’s Wells and Pawneese, and Poughkeepsie’s own daughters Pleasant Valley and Parade Militaire, the latter by the same family‘s Peintre Celebre.