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The secrets of the Berlais – Jour de Galop

Magazine / 27.05.2022

The secrets of Berlais

A Ferdinaud Dufaure – Alain du Breil double this year, another Wild Monarch – Finot last year: the Haras du Berlais has achieved what no other breeder has managed to accomplish! A tour de force, especially when you knowît the number of brood mares owned by Jean-Marc Lucas. We have tried to unravel the secrets of this success, heading for Vienne…

By Adeline Gombaud

Ceaux-en-Couhé, about thirty kilometers from Poitiers, has barely five hundred inhabitants. And local celebrities are horses. It is in this village that Jean-Marc Lucas tirelessly, for more than thirty years, transformed his father’s cereal plots into meadows, and built a state-of-the-art livestock farm. Of course, we know the Berlais over jumps, but Jean-Marc Lucas and his team have also produced classic winners on the flat and Gr1 winners among the Purebred Arabians.

News obliges, it is the obstacle which leads us to discover the lands on which grew Highness and Hawaii, the last two heroines of Berlais. And the owner’s 4×4 is not a luxury, because the stud extends over 200ha! “The land goes from one steeple to another! Each plot is between 350m and 500m long. There are plots for mares, those for yearlings, those for Arabs, on more calcareous soils… Soil analyzes are carried out every year. In general, I make lots by owner, which facilitates visits. »

Farmer above all

The highlight of the show is the gigantic water reserve that Jean-Marc Lucas had built a few years ago. Ultra-secure, this real artificial lake 12m deep allows irrigation, with its capacity of 125,000m³ all grasses. “Lack of water is a problem that will only grow. I understood quite early that drilling would have its limit and I agreed to a considerable investment for this reserve. » Jean-Marc Lucas has good farming sense and consistency in ideas. Its exploitation works “squarely”, with an almost military rigor. The ten employees know their missions perfectly and it is difficult to find a bit of straw that sticks out. From his father, agronomist and cereal grower, Jean-Marc Lucas has kept this taste for working the land. The stud farm is self-sufficient in hay, and the garage where the tractors, rakes, mowers and other presses are stored is an Ali Baba’s cave for anyone who loves mechanics.

Chica Bonita, the matron

For genetic enthusiasts, it’s in the meadows that you have to go, and Jean-Marc Lucas presents us with some stars of his breeding, followed by foals who are already very sociable. We recognize Athensena du Berlaisfollowed by a male Goliath (“little Macarius”, as his breeder calls him!), Gazelle and his female Great Pretender, or even Cheetah and a very nice product from Ectot. Jean-Marc Lucas has always favored quality over quantity and it is almost surprising to learn that he has “only” fifteen jumping mares. “I’m still going to have to increase the workforce a bit because I’m having trouble meeting demand. » As far as the obstacle is concerned, it all started with the purchase of Chica Bonita (Badayoun), winner of the Wild Monarch for the training and colors of Jean-Paul Gallorini. “It was Hervé Bunel who introduced me to Jean-Paul Gallorini and thanks to whom I was able to buy this mare. »

She gave eleven foals to Berlais and we find her today in the pedigree of nine active broodmares at stud. Through his daughter Chica du Berlais (Cadoudal), who only raced once, but whose own sister, Isis du Berlaiswon the Wild Monarch Award, we owe him Nikita du Berlais (Polilgote), winner of a Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil (Gr1), Bonito du Berlais (Trempolino), winner of the Prix Cambacérès (Gr1), Carlita du Berlais (Soldier of Fortune), now broodmare at stud after winning the Prix Sagan (L), and Bonita du Berlais (King’s Theatre), Listed winner, Group placed, and dam notably of Byzantium of Berlais (Martaline), second in the Prix d’Indy (Gr3) and third in the Renaud du Vivier (Gr1).

Sister of Chica Bonita, Shinca (Port Lyautey) also passed through the bastion of Berlais to which it offered Berlais Chimera (Martaline), winner of the Cambacérès (Gr1), Berlais Shinco (Indian River), winner of the Prix La Barka (Gr2) or even Lucky du Berlais (Ultimately Lucky), who won a Prix Jean Stern (Gr2).

Robert Collet, like a brother

The other great Berlais family was built thanks to the purchase of the champion from the Gallot spouses Royal Athenia (Royal Guard), winner of the Prix Renaud du Vivier (Gr1). “We bought her full of Poliglote for €300,000 with Robert Collet! It was a lot but good blood can not lie… She took a little time to produce in her image and I only have one female of her, Ermine du Berlais (Holy of Holies), the mother of Highness, of Colbert du Berlais (Poliglote) and the promising Star of Berlais (Great Pretender). Robert, he taught me everything! He is like a brother to me. He taught me about racing, competition, a taste for challenge… He allowed me to be Cheval d’Or with only ten brood mares! »

The competition, the basis of the selection

All mares are competition tested, and as is the case with Altesse and Hawaii, they are usually leased for their racing careers at 3 and 4 years old before returning to stud. “Selection through competition is essential. I can keep females who haven’t really shown great things in the race, if their trainer has detected something in them, a mentality, a big heart… I wouldn’t have the means to make them all race under my colors , and this rental system is a good thing. It allows me to meet new people: I like to allow nice people to join the team. This is what happened with Guillaume Luyckx, whom I met at Clairefontaine, Gilles Barbarin and Gianni Caggiula. »

The choice of stallions stems from the selection of mares. The “Berlais” all have a real aptitude for jumping, and Jean-Marc Lucas’ concern is rather to bring speed. By crossing them with stallions themselves tested on obstacles, there is a risk of producing tractors. I used Muhtathir, Trempolino a lot… Now I trust young stallions like Zarak, Ectot, Born to Sea… and Nathaniel! Do not hesitate to travel to find happiness. Five mares left for the projection across the Channel this year. »

From father to son

Last Sunday, Jean-Marc Lucas was not present at Auteuil. He delegated one of his sons, Marc-Antoine, to represent him. Transmission is in progress: “Marc-Antoine was in the commandos, he went to Mali in particular. He’s back at stud and is a perfect second to me. He will take over. He has this very rigorous side of the military, and he knows how to federate around him. He just has to find his place by my side, and that’s why I send him to the races, on the front line! The Berlais, it’s him too! Édouard, my other son, is more passionate about training. He stayed two years with Guillaume Macaire and he is going abroad to see something else. »

At first, the Poitevin mulassier features!

Jean-Marc Lucas’ grandfather was already a breeder on these lands. “He had about fifty brood mares, Poitevin Mulassier draft horses, which he sold all over Europe for hauling and field work. My father trained as an agricultural engineer, and he had to take over the farm early on, when my grandfather died. He kept a few broodmares to please my mother, but transformed the operation into a grain farm. Me, I loved horses, I took part in a lot of model and gait competitions… Jean de Laurière had taken me under his wing and promised to make me a good breeder, even if he didn’t have the ability to become a good rider! At the Poitiers sales, the equivalent of today’s Fences sales, I met Philippe Augier and Bernard Salvat who convinced me to switch to racehorses. The first to trust me was Baron Guy de Rothschild, who sent me his stallion Galant Vert and about fifteen mares. He liked challenges and knew the region! Later, Alec Head entrusted me with Saint Cyrien, Berend Van Dalfsen Dyhim Diamond, Robert Collet Simon du Désert… Thanks to Guillaume Macaire, the stud also welcomed Saint Preuil and Indian River. We had up to five stallions and bred 250 mares. It had become a real business but I had the impression of abandoning my clients who trusted me all year round. I sold an annex, the Haras de la Barelière, and I transformed my father’s cereal land into meadows, from 20ha to 200ha! »

Purebred Arabians, his first love story

Purebred Arabians also have their place at Haras du Berlais and Jean-Marc Lucas has bred Gr1 winners in this breed. The royal stables of Oman and Al Shaqab Racing in particular entrust him with brood mares all year round. A return to basics since the first mare bought by the very young Jean-Marc Lucas was an Arab! “I was a trainee with André Mage and I saw this yearling that I adored. I asked my father if we could buy it. It was Nafta. She produced the stallions Nuit St Georges and Njewman, but also Jaffa du Berlais, hence Pom du Berlais… I trained alongside my friend Martial Boisseuil, a great connoisseur of this breed! »

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