by Anne Peters ©
[Note: for the purposes of this article, the term "inbreeding" refers to duplications of any ancestor appearing within four generations, i.e., 4x4, 4x3, 3x3, etc.. The term "linebreeding" refers to duplications of ancestors outside of the fourth generation, such as 3x5, 4x5, 5x6, etc.]
Marcel Boussac was one of the greatest breeders of the Twentieth Century. He was also unique in that he pursued patterns of inbreeding more successfully than any other modern breeder. This makes him especially interesting to students of pedigree research in that his breeding program represents one of the few case studies of a breeder who utilized this controversial method of breeding.
A chronological study of the champions and classic winners bred by Marcel Boussac reveals some interesting patterns. We've used the list of the best products bred at Boussac's Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard, from Abram S. Hewitt's book Great Breeder's and Their Methods (see Table I.)
The foundation sire, Tourbillon
Boussac's first outstanding homebred was Tourbillon (1928), winner of the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) and a perennial leading sire in France. Tourbillon was by the great French champion Ksar and out of Durban by Durbar II, a pedigree which made him an outcross at four generations, but with crosses of St. Gatien 5fx5m. Ksar himself was intensely inbred, being 3fx2f to Omnium II and Tourbillon's dam, Durban, was also inbred, being 3mx4f to St. Simon and 4fx4m to Hanover. Given these inbred parents, both would have appreciated an outcross away from their inbred strains, and linked by the crosses of St. Gatien, making their mating to eachother potentially favorable.
Two years after Tourbillon, Boussac bred Thor (1930) another Prix du Jockey Club winner by Ksar out of Lasarte by Alcantara II. This one was also outcrossed to Ksar's inbred strains of Omnium II, but was himself inbred 4mx3f to Gardefeu, Ksar's great-grandsire in male line. This also represented an outcross to the linebreeding (5mx3f) to Galopin found in Thor's dam, Lasarte.
Tourbillon became the benchmark sire for Boussac, siring several more homebred champions topped by Djebel, and including Goya II, Cillas, Esmeralda, Caracalla, Coaraze, and Ambiorix. And as one of Boussac's foundation sires (along with the older Asterus, who was purchased as a yearling), Tourbillon also found himself as a target of inbreeding in further Boussac experiments, as was his sire, Ksar.
Tourbillon's best son, Djebel (1937), was an outcross like his sire, although he had five paths back to Galopin in the fifth, sixth and seventh generations. One might expect the opposite, an outcrossed horse like Tourbillon doing well with further inbreeding, but that's not looking at the other half of the pedigree. Djebel's dam, Loika was herself an inbred, being 3mx4f to Bay Ronald, and linebred to Bay Ronald's sire, Hampton. Djebel became a tremendously successful sire for Boussac in his own right, and a leading sire in France. He also became one of the prime vehicles Boussac used to inbreed to Tourbillon, often paired in a pedigree with one of Tourbillon's daughters. It's worth noting that Djebel's second dam was a daughter of Teddy. Boussac's first major stallion was Asterus, a son of Teddy, so Djebel also blended well with the many homebred daughters of Asterus at Fresnay-le-Buffard.
Tourbillon's son Goya II (1934) was linebred to St. Simon, similar to his dam, Zariba, who was also linebred to St. Simon and Bend Or. Goya II also became a leading sire in France for Boussac, and was sold to America where he continued with some success, although not as profound as during his years in France.
Tourbillon's Cillas (1935) was a more intense model, being 3fx3f to Durbar II and 4fx3f to the mare Frizette, but both of these coming through the three-quarter sisters Durban (dam of Tourbillon) and Frizelle (Cillas' second dam), who appeared 2x2 in the pedigree. Having too much of the home strains to be useful to Boussac as a stallion, Cillas was sold to Ireland, but did very little as a sire in a short life, dying at the age of 11 in 1946.
Esmeralda (1939) was a Tourbillon filly linebred 4mx5m to Rabelais. Her dam was an outcross, but her second dam, an early Boussac-bred mare named Deasy, was 3fx3m to Le Sancy. Esmeralda herself proved an outstanding producer, being the dam of Coronation V, a filly inbred 2x2 back to the foundation sire Tourbillon, and winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Toubrillon's Caracalla II (1942) was an outstanding stayer and was also linebred 4x5 to Rabelais and even further to his sire, St. Simon. Caracalla II's dam was linebred to St. Simon and Hampton, but there are no strong patterns here. An outstanding stayer, Caracalla II was a only a useful stallion for Boussac, but became a decent sire of broodmares. It is arguable that his stud career was not a rocketing success due to his staying habit, but the lack of pattern on either side of the pedigree may have also been a factor.
From the same crop as Caracalla II, Tourbillon's son, Coaraze (1942) was a very good runner and was a successful sire in France, although not for Boussac. In 1954, he was one of the first of many Boussac-breds to find their way to South America, specifically becoming a leading sire in Brazil. Coaraze was linebred to St. Simon from linebred parents.
Tourbillon's son Ambiorix (1946), a champion juvenile and miler in France, was sold after his racing career to become a leading sire in America. He was linebred to St. Simon, but was out of a mare interestingly inbred 4mx3m to the top broodmare Canterbury Pilgrim.
Generally speaking, these best offspring of Tourbillon were moderately linebred, with only one (Cillas) being closely inbred, and he failed as a sire. The remainder included the leading sires Djebel, Goya II, Coaraze, Ambiorix, and the decent sire Thor, all the results of linebreeding. The good filly Esmeralda became a top producer.
Tourbillon's sons, especially Djebel
If we take this to the next generation, Boussac's top runners by Djebel included Arbar, Coronation V, Galcador, Djelfa, Cordova, and Apollonia.
Arbar was inbred 4fx3m to Teddy out of outcrossed parents. CoronationV was the offspring of the previously mentioned Esmeralda and remarkably inbred 2mx3f Tourbillon. Galcador was 4mx4m to Bayardo and further linebred to Polymelus, and his dam was 3mx4m to Polymelus. Djelfa was 3mx3m to Ksar and futher linebred to Durbar II and the mare Frizette. Cordova was 3mx4f to Ksar and Durban both, via the full siblings Tourbillon and Diademe. Cordova was also 4fx4m to Teddy. Apollonia was 2mx3f to Tourbillon, and linebred to Teddy, Durbar II and Banshee, the pair of which were 3x3 in her second dam, Tourzima.
We'll mention one more offspring of Djebel who, while a good racehorse, was not a great champion. This is Djeddah, who was imported to stand in America with some success. He gained lasting influence as a broodmare sire, however, through his daughters, the dams of Never Bend, Bold Reason, Proud Clarion, and Mr. Leader. Like many good Boussac-breds, Djeddah was 3fx4f Durbar II and 3fx4f Banshee through the sisters Durban (dam of Tourbillon) and Heldifann. He was also 4x3 Teddy.
So it's apparent that Djebel, with an inbred dam, exceled when bred to mares with closely related lines to his own, especially to the lines found in his sire, Tourbillon (Ksar - Durban by Durbar II - Banshee). Of these inbred offspring of Djebel, the colts Arbar and Galcador were successful sires. Coronation was not a successful producer, and Djelfa, Cordova, and Apollonia were also disappointing.
Tourbillon's other top sire son, Goya II, sired Boussac-bred champions Nirgal, Sandjar and Asmena. Nirgal was 3fx3f to Sardanapale and a successful sire in the United States. Sandjar was linbred to St. Simon from outcrossed parents and did little at stud. Asmena was also 3fx3f to Sardanapale and further linebred to St. Serf, but was not a good producer.
The outside influence of Pharos
Another key sire in the Boussac empire was an outside stallion owned by Lord Derby, the mighty Pharos, known best to the world as the sire of Nearco. Pharos was inbred 3x4 to St. Simon and was sire of Boussac-bred Semiramide, and the best of them all, Pharis. Semiramide was linebred from linebred parents, and her good daughter Cortiera (by Goya II) was also linebred.
Pharis paints another picture, however. He was 4mx4m to Cyllene and linebred to 5x4x5x5 to St. Simon and also to Bend Or. One of France's all-time great runners, he also became one of its most important sires. Retiring to stud at the beginning of World War II, he was confiscated by the Germans invading Normandy and returned to Boussac at the end of the war. He sired the outstanding Boussac-breds Ardan, Palencia, Priam II, Scratch, Corejada, Talma II, Auriban, Pharaos, and Philius.
Ardan was further linebred to Cyllene out of a linebred dam, and was sold by Boussac to become a modestly successful sire in the United States. Palencia was distantly linebred to St. Simon from a St. Simon linebred dam and was a good producer for her breeder. Priam II was also a St. Simon linebred from a mare inbred 4x3 to Rabelais, and was a useful sire in America. Scratch was linebred to St. Frusquin from a mare 4x4 to Bay Ronald, and became a good sire in Argentina. Corejada was distantly linebred to St. Simon from a mare inbred 3x3 to the Durbar II - Banshee combination (2x2 to the sisters Durban and Heldifann). She became a very good broodmare, dam of the future Boussac champion Apollonia (by Djebel), who was also intensely inbred. Talma II was linebred to St. Frusquin out of a mare 4fx4m to Bay Ronald.
Pharis' son Auriban was linebred to both Cyllene and St. Simon from a mare inbred 3x3 to Durbar II and 4x3 to Frizette, making him bred similarly to Corejada. Auriban was a modestly successful sire in the later years of the Boussac empire. The Pharis filly Pharaos was linebred to St. Simon from a mare 4x3 to both Durbar II and Banshee, so bred similarly to Corejadda and Auriban. Pharaos was not a good broodmare. Philius was linebred to Polymelus and St. Frusquin out of a mare linebred to St. Simon. He was not an effective sire.
In summary, the top Boussac-bred offspring of Pharis (inbred 4x4 to Cyllene) were generally an outcrossed or moderately linebred lot but most of them were out of intensely inbred mares from unrelated strains. Being inbred himself, his good results could be interpreted as favorable outcrossing for both sides of the pedigree. Likewise, Pharis' best producing offspring in this group (Priam II, Scratch, Corejada) were out of highly inbred mares.
The later years
The Boussac program dominated French racing from the 1930s through the 1950s, and tailed off remarkably in the 1960s. The four top horses from that era were Abdos (by Arbar), Crepellana (by Crepello), Dankaro (by Dan Cupid), and Acamas (by Mill Reef). It's worth noting that only Abdos was by a home-based sire. One reason for this use of outside stallions, and possibly also for the decline in quality was that Boussac's premier stallions, is that Djebel and Pharis had both died in the late 1950s, leaving the stud with no first class stallions to carry the bloodlines forward as there had been in the past.
Abdos was a brilliant two-year-old, but not typical of the classicists and stayers Boussac had bred for decades. Abdos was inbred 5fx4mx3f to Teddy; and Abdos' sire, Arbar, was 4fx3m Teddy and his dam was linebred to Teddy's ancestors Orme and St. Simon. Abdos became a useful sire and his bloodlines persist in some of the Aga Khan's stock including Darshaan, out of an Abdos mare.
Crepellana, while by the outcrossed sire Crepello, was out of an intensely inbred mare, Astana, herself 3mx2f Tourbillon and 4fx5f Sardanapale. Crepellana herself was 5fx4f to both Gainsborough and Asterus. Crepellana was a good producer, the dam of the outcrossed Amyntor (by Sir Gaylord).
Dankaro was linebred, but his sire, the American Dan Cupid, was 4mx2f Sickle, and Dankaro's second dam was 3mx3f to Tourbillon. He was given little chance to leave a mark in his brief stud career, dying in 1976 at the age of five.
Acamas' sire, Mill Reef, was an outcross himself, and while an outside sire, his appeal to the aging Boussac is obvious. He was a son of American-bred Never Bend, whose pedigree has numerous key "hooks" into Boussac pedigrees. Most important might have been the fact that Never Bend's dam, Lalun, was by Boussac-bred inbred Djeddah, who had been sent to stud in America. Never Bend also had crosses of Pharos (sire of Pharis) and Rabelais, and his second dam carried a cross of Boussac-bred La Troienne. Never Bend himself was linebred to her sire, Teddy, who appeared in strength in many Boussac pedigrees, mainly through his son, Asterus, another foundation sire for Boussac.
Acamas was an outcross, but was linebred to several important Boussac products: Djebel, Tourbillon, Djezima, and Asterus. Acamas' dam was 4x4 to Tourbillon and linebred to Asterus. His fourth dam, Tourzima (Tourbillon - Djezima) was a three-parts sister to Djeddah, found in Never Bend. Acamas was not a successful sire, due in large part to fertility problems.
Boussac inbreeding trends
Boussac was one of the few breeders to successfully use inbreeding as a central part of his organization. The top homebreds Thor, Cillas, Pharis, Nirgal, Arbar, Coronation, Asmena, Galcador, Djelfa, Cordova, Apollonia, Abdos, Crepellana and Djeddah were all inbred within four generations. Of those, Cillas, Nirgal, Coronation, Asmena, Djelfa, and Apollonia were inbred within three generations, while Coronation has become the modern poster child for successful inbreeding within two generations.
Of those inbred horses, Thor, Pharis, Nirgal, Arbar, Galcador, Abdos and Djeddah became important stallions, while Apollonia and Crepellana became good broodmares. On the other hand, Boussac's best sires, Tourbillon and son Djebel were both outcrossed to four generations. Asterus, which Boussac purchased from breeder Rothschild as a yearling, was inbred 4x4 to Hampton, and while a top sire, was a much better broodmare sire when crossed on the unrelated homebred stallions.
So, is this case study proof that Marcel Boussac benefitted from his inbreeding strategies? A look at this phenomenal list of champions indicates that while he seems to have achieved a higher percent of success than the breed average using inbreeding, it might be a wiser observation to say that Boussac achieved tremendous success balancing inbreeding and outcrossing, since many of his outcrossed champions were by inbred sires or out of inbred mares.
The decline and return to power
The decline of his breeding empire is attributable to two key factors, neither of which appear to reflect any degradation directly involving his use of inbreeding. First, Boussac's advancing age and declining health meant that he was not as hands-on with his horses as he had been in earlier years. This as well as financial difficulties in his business severely handicapped his Thoroughbred operation. At the same time, his horse population had grown larger and larger over the years due to Boussac's laxity on culling broodmares.
Second, having sold most of his later champion colts, many for export, Boussac did not have suitable replacements when his top sires Djebel and Pharis died in the 1950s. This required increased use of outside stallions and bloodlines which were generally inferior to his existing broodmare band. This also tended to force the maestro to cut corners by using homebred stallions that were likewise of inferior quality to his mares.
One is inclined to believe that if Boussac had had a dedicated heir to continue his program, and had bred or purchased a top stallion or two to upgrade the broodmare band, that the Boussac operation would have bounced back significantly in the 1970s. And in effect, he did, and it did.
The Aga Khan
In the early 1970s, the Aga Khan purchased nearly the entire lot of breeding stock from the estate of Marcel Boussac, and utilizing the top stallions in Europe, revitalized many of the best families. One of the Aga Khan's favorite sirelines was that of Never Bend, through Mill Reef and his son, Shirley Heights. As noted above, Never Bend was perfect for the Boussac broodmares since he had many key "hooks" into their pedigrees.
Darshaan, by Shirley Heights out of a Boussac-bred daughter of Abdos, was the quintessential result, a top sire and broodmare sire. The Aga Khan's recent champion Daylami was also sired by Doyoun, a son of Mill Reef and from a Boussac female line going back to Crepellana's half-sister Rose Ness.
Recently, the Aga Khan has raced several Group 1 winners, most of which had a Boussac connection. Dilshaan is by Darshaan. Kalanisi is out also by Doyoun. Sinndar (by Grand Lodge) is also out of a mare bred on the same pattern as Darshaan, by Lashkari (by Mill Reef) with his second dam a Boussac-bred daughter of Abdos. Daliapour is out of a mare by Doyoun, herself a half-sister to Darshaan, and Daliapour is linebred to Lalun, the daughter of Djeddah who produced Bold Reason and Never Bend. Sendawar is linebred 5x5 to Never Bend.
Overall, it seems that Marcel Boussac's life's work with Thoroughbreds was a long-range success and is continuing to prove influential in the thirty years since his death. Linebreeding back to Boussac's best strains is a proven method of success in top class runners. While no one may be bold enough to continue Boussac's inbreeding patterns in this day and age, the Thoroughbred is certainly the better for his experimentations.
January 14, 2002. Copyright by Anne Peters 2002.