They may not have a horse in the showpiece event but the famous Blue and White silks of the Wertheimer brothers’ will be carried in several other races during Longchamp’s most prestigious meeting.
Owners of the Chanel fashion empire in Paris, they inherited the company and the horse racing business from their father Jacques. His father Pierre had owned and bred racehorses in France from the early part of the 20th century. In 1949 he had employed a young Alec Head to train his horses. The partnership generated huge success not only in France, but in England too, winning English classics including the Derby at Epsom.
Under the guidance of Jacques Wertheimer, the business continued to thrive, with Head continuing to train numerous Group winners in France including two Prix de l’Arc victories with Ivanjica and Gold River. In the 1970’s Wertheimer expanded the thriving bloodstock enterprise, with a base at Hagyard Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. French classic winners, including Dancing Maid and Gold River became broodmares in America.
On Alec Head’s retirement, his daughter Criquette took over training responsibilities and further success followed. And when brothers Alain and Gerard took over the family enterprise the transition again proved seamless. Known as Wertheimer & Frere (Wertheimer and Brother) in Europe, the team have continued to be a dominant force in French racing. Leading breeders on three occasions, they were also champion owners in 2012 and 2013.
In America the Wertheimer brothers took the 1993 Breeders' Cup Turf with Kotashaan. In 2003, they had further Breeders’ Cup success when Halfbridled took the Juvenile Fillies. Both horses had been trained in America by Richard Mandella. The family had further success across the Atlantic when their sensational filly Goldikova took the Breeders’ Cup Mile three years running in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Goldikova was trained by yet another of the Head family, Criquette’s brother Freddy Head. The wonderful filly probably did more than any other to make those blue and white silks famous. Dominant on home turf, especially at seven furlongs or a mile, she earned over €5 million in prize money.
A regular at Longchamp for the Arc meeting, Goldikova won the Prix de la Foret in 2010 defeating Paco Boy and Dick Turpin in a thrilling finish. In 27 career starts she was only out of the first three on one occasion, and the vast majority of those races were at the highest level. When she finally retired at the end of her six-year-old campaign, she had won an incredible 14 Group 1s.
Long term relationships have been a theme of Wertheimers’ time in racing. Another that only recently ended was that of retained jockey Olivier Peslier. A constant throughout Goldikova’s career, he also rode Solemia for connections to a shock victory in the 2012 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. It proved a day of heartbreak for Japan, when their outstanding colt Orfevre swept to the front looking a certain winner, only to be done on the line in an incredible finish.
The split with Peslier appeared amicable, and in racing as in business things change and people move on. Maxime Guyon has taken over riding responsibilities, though Peslier is still regularly called upon. The latest equine star for connections is Solow, trained by Freddy Head and likely to be seen at Ascot later this month. He appears to have taken on the mantle of Goldikova, and has proved unbeatable this year at a mile.
With around 75 horses in training, the majority now shared between Freddy Head, Andre Fabre and Carlos Laffon-Parias, the famous blue and white silks will be seen in a handful of races at Longchamp this weekend. In particular, a pair of promising juveniles will be tested in the Marcel Boussac and the Lagardere. Left Hand is a nicely bred filly and though this looks a huge step up after only one outing, the drying conditions should be in her favour if pedigree is anything to go by.
With a reputation for producing outstanding fillies, the Wertheimer brothers will be hoping for more success at France’s most prestigious meeting.