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Haras de Meautry, Touques, Calvados, Normandy, France

The French Rothschilds began to race and breed horses slightly earlier than their English relatives, James Mayer de Rothschild (1792-1868) having created racing stables at his Ferrières estate in 1835. Still in existence, albeit relocated to Normandy, and under the management of later generations of the family, the Rothschild stables are one of the oldest in France.

Haras de Meautry in Touques, Calvados, Normandy, was acquired in the 19th century by horse-racing enthusiast Mayer Alphonse James de Rothschild (1827–1905). The Château de Meautry lies in the heart of French racing country; numerous stud farms can be found in the area and just four kilometres away in Deauville are two race tracks, the Deauville-Clairefontaine Racecourse and the Deauville-La Touques Racecourse.

Alphonse and brother Gustave (1829-1911) expanded the Rothschild stables. During the second half of the nineteenth century, they bought up land in the area around Chantilly, establishing training stables at 10 rue St Laurent, Chantilly and at 4 rue de la Source, Gouvieux. In addition to Meautry, they also leased another stud farm at St Cloud. Edouard de Rothschild (1868-1949) inherited his father Alphonse's half-share of the stables and stud farm at his death in 1905. Edouard shared his father's passion for horses and built a new mansion 'Sans Souci' at Gouvieux-Chantilly. His son Guy de Rothschild (1909-2007) who inherited Haras de Meautry, fondly recalled a childhood where horse racing was a part of family life, "Chantilly is practically synonymous with horses, which I've loved since I was a little boy, first in Normandy at the Meautry stud, where the foals were born, then at Chantilly, where from my window, well before I learned to ride, I could see the horses train." The estate remains in the Rothschild family. 

Champion horses

Over the years, Haras de Meautry has produced a number of champion horses including: Brantôme (f. 1931), Bubbles (f. 1925), Eclair au Chocolat (f. 1935 – taken by occupying forces in the Second World War), Exbury (f. 1959), Heaume (f. 1887), La Farina (f. 1911), Stracchino (f. 1874), Le Roi Soleil (f. 1895), Sans Souci II (f. 1904), Vieux Manoir (f. 1947) and Indian Danehill (f. 1996)

Brantôme was one  of the most famous of the Rothschild horses. Unbeaten at ages 2 and 3, he is ranked among the best French horses ever. The colt won the French 2000 Guineas; the Prix Lupin, the Prix Royal-Oak, the most prestigious 1934 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe plus eight other significant races.

During the German occupation of France during the Second World War, all breeders' premiums won by Meautry-bred horses were confiscated by the Nazi officials in charge of French racing. As well, the Nazis seized some of the best racehorses in the country and shipped more than six hundred thoroughbreds out of the country. Some went to Hungary, but most were shipped to Germany for racing or for breeding at the Heeresgestüt Altefeld, which belonged to the German Wehrmacht. Among them was the champion Brantôme who would be recovered in 1945 at the end of the War.

Other Rothschild-owned horses won the Grand Prix de Paris in 1909 and 1914 and claimed victory in a number of other important Stakes races including two more wins at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 1938 and 1963.

For more information see The Racing Rothschilds: the sportsmen, the maverick and the legend in The Rothschild Archive Annual Review 2008-2009 »

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