Roméo des Aigles, a Thoroughbred not quite like the others

Saturday, March 18, 2023
Melina Massias

In Deauville, last weekend, the stallion approval organized by the Zangersheide studbook welcomed a singular candidate, but no less talented. Roméo des Aigles, born at Benoît Deschamp, was presented by Mathieu Coutin, breeder, rider, dealer and owner of the grey. Coming from a father who competed in hurdle races, the aptly named Romeo puts back the use of Thoroughbred males in the breeding of horses of jumping or complete a little more on the front of the stage.

Informed observers hailed, Saturday, March 11, the courage and audacity of Mathieu Coutin. Last weekend, the rider, breeder and dealer based not far from Saumur, in Maine-et-Loire, presented a horse not quite like the others at the approval of the Zangersheide stud-book organized in Deauville. Free from the now so common bloodlines of Diamant de Semilly, Kannan, Chacco-Blue and other Cornet Obolensky (ex Windows vh Costersveld), his four-year-old protege is none other than a… Thoroughbred! Although it was not retained by the jury for the second phase of selection, despite a first performance without a false note on the bars, the gray will have had the merit of attracting attention and bringing about reflection on the return of pure blood in tomorrow’s crosses.

Romeo as a model in Deauville. © Pixel Events

Born at Benoît Deschamps, in Hudimesnil, near Saint Martin de Bréhal, from the union between Quick Martin and Cyrna des Aigles, a daughter of Confuchias, Roméo des Aigles grew up with Mathieu Coutin, his owner. “Benoît Deschamps is a friend with whom I work. He is notably the birthplace of Cirrus of the Eagles (winner of twenty-two races, rewarded with more than seven million euros in career earnings and of which Yvon Lelimouzin is also the co-creator, editor’s note)which was driven by Corinne Beard and made his breeding famous. One day, we were on vacation with Benoît and he had put out a lot of mares. He was a little overwhelmed, so I bought about fifteen horses from him. In the lot, there was Romeo des Aigles. His mother’s sister, Cyrna des Aigles, is called Kissmi des Aigles and is a cousin of Cirrus des Aigles. Among the horses I bought, I sold some, as surrogate mares, etc. I liked Cyrna and Romeo, so I kept them. As he was nice, we kept him whole and let him live without pressure with our other males, on the grass And then, when it was necessary to break him in at three years old, I found that he had much changed, much evolved”, begins the trainer. “Romeo moves like a king, he trots really well when released. I haven’t put his dam dam back to breeding for the past two years, since I wanted to see how Romeo was doing first. I also kept another mare from the Aigles breeding, Éclair, a granddaughter of Garde Royale, himself a descendant of Mill Reef.”

Romeo during a free training session. © Private collection

Bringing Blood, Tissue and Provoking Thought

Once under the saddle, the versatile Thoroughbred seems to leave no one indifferent. “We love Romeo, he’s really great. When people see it, they are always positively taken aback. Our friends who have had the opportunity to ride it agree that it is brilliant”, resumes Mathieu Coutin. Driven into the movement, the gray then follows his stable neighbors and participates in several jumping sessions, in various stables. Remarking “a cool thing” at his protege, the multi-hat rider decides to try his luck during the Zangersheide approval. “We were going to Deauville with other horses (Amstrong, Armani van Overis x Ulahop Boy et Tango des Cèdres, Tangelo vd Zuuthoeve x Tygo, ndlr), so we took him too. It was above all a breeder’s conviction. I’ve been breeding horses for twenty-five, thirty years. My goal and my desire are to bring back chic, fabric, sensitivity, frankness, impact and hardness. I breed competition horses, but also Thoroughbreds, and I trade. The Thoroughbreds give 300% and they are always in the red when they run. Afterwards, people categorize them by saying that they are stupid or difficult, but often this is simply linked to the fact that they are in pain”. he points out.

Romeo in action on Saturday during the first phase of the Zangersheide approval. © Pixel Events

Finally, even if Romeo did not win his approval, Mathieu Coutin remains optimistic and sure of his convictions. “It’s not always easy to present a Thoroughbred, especially since it also trains to run. I have preserved him, we take our time with him, but you feel extraordinary things on his back compared to a classic Selle Français or another foreign horse”. takes over the breeder. “He was a little flat in Deauville, and maybe getting back to him more at pace would have helped him. In any case, we cannot judge him as a representative of the usual studbooks, who would have had a completely different preparation. He didn’t look the best there and had better sessions at home; Thoroughbreds remain sensitive despite everything. In any case, Romeo did his job: he didn’t hit a bar, bent his forelegs, ejected his back well, etc. Thoroughbreds may require a little more time too. My approach was above all a pleasure of breeding. Romeo deserved to take a chance. Riding him, I said to myself that I simply wanted to entrust him with mares. Beyond that, I was happy to present a Thoroughbred, because it shocked, challenged people.

Romeo peacefully in his Angevin meadows. © Private collection

Back to basics?

Moreover, Mathieu Coutin will perhaps take the plunge and entrust his adorable gray with one or two mares this season. “If so, see you in seven years! (laughs)”, launches the happy owner. In fact, the foals would be born with recorded origins and could, subsequently, claim to become Selle Français on an initial basis, subject to participation in model and gait competitions and a few hundred euros. A bet and an investment that may be worth the candle, as the influence of the Thoroughbred has worked wonders in the past. “My conviction, in the long term, would be to redo some Thoroughbreds intended for show jumping”, develops Mathieu Coutin. “This would bring back the fabric that German horses have, for example. In the Holstein studbook, the influence of the Thoroughbred is well established. Belgian breeding, which has evolved a lot, while a certain number of its representatives were heavy or had their backs relaxed, brought back an unparalleled fabric. And then, above all, we had cracks by crossing our beautiful Half-Bloods of the time with horses like Rantzau, Lionel, or Laudanum.”

Quick Martin, the father of Roméo des Aigles. © Scoopdyga

These bloodlines, like those of Ladykiller, Furioso, Fra Diavolo, Orange Peel and others, although ancient, are still sought after in modern breeding, as are good Anglo-Arabian strains. “The Thoroughbreds certainly have five gears, one of which puts them flatter and which they use in particular in races, but they jump without wasting time. This was typically the case withHerald IIIwhich presents the pedigree of an AQPS and has evolved up to Grands Prix with Pilar Lucrecia Cordon and Eric Lamaze”, adds the enthusiast. “By going to Deauville, I also hoped to attract the attention of our Benelux neighbors, who may be interested in this type of horse. I think Romeo will bring back some reactivity. Today we also need to restore toughness and hardness. And it’s not foreigners who are going to bring us that. Horses like Thoroughbreds bring tension to the back simply through their locomotion. They move forward naturally, so riding becomes easier. There is no more pulling to get your back up and riding with big spurs.”

Romeo in the circle of Havrincourt de Deauville. © Pixel Events

For Mathieu Coudin, no doubt. “There is a future for the Thoroughbred”, he assures. “I have already used Thoroughbred mothers, who gave me very good horses, which were subsequently sold in the United States or in England. I also have very good AQPS lines, but we are also obliged to use recognized sport stallions in order to sell the foals. Otherwise, it becomes more complicated. At high level, there are more and more horses with papers as long as your arm. It’s a kind of new world, to which you also have to know how to adapt. But the use of Thoroughbreds remains a conviction for us. Besides, I’m going to cross Romeo’s mother to a Purebred Arab, in order to obtain an Anglo-Arab with 50% blood. For example, one of the most influential sires in Belgium was Lys de Darmen, a grandson of the Anglo Pancho II, a small horse that jumped 1.25m. I will therefore use a stallion with whom we find Massondo, who gave Zandor, Ryon d’Anzex and great strains and lines. Now, whether it will pay off or not, I don’t know. Still, to earn a living, you must above all respect your raw material. And then, if you want to make a good horse, he has to find the right rider, and he must be loved.

Romeo. © Private collection

For so-called “Original” Selle Français enthusiasts, the contribution of the blood of good Thoroughbreds would also be a godsend, as crossbreeding, apart from the omnipresence of a few big names, can prove difficult. However, the idea of ​​returning to this type of crossing may be gaining ground among some. If they are not legion, the defenders of such initiatives continue to mobilize, as a certain Xavier Leredde was able to do by presenting, precisely, a Thoroughbred at the Saint-Lô stallion show! A first for a long time.

The adorable Romeo. © Pixel Events

Multiple possibilities for the future

After this experience in Normandy, all eyes are on the future for Roméo des Aigles. Will he evolve in show jumping, with the hope of obtaining his approval on performance during a Great Breeding Week in Fontainebleau in the coming years, will he shine on the racetrack? or in eventing? Faced with his panel of qualities, Mathieu Coutin is spoiled for choice. “I work a lot with Nicolas Touzaint, Jean Teulère, etc. Romeo could, in fact, be oriented towards eventing. He could also run at the end of the year because he is a real Auteuil horse! We do not really know. For now we are adapting day by day. One thing is certain: the passion for horses will always prevail”, reveals the owner of the gray. No question, therefore, of rushing any participation in the contest. “In our system, we like to take our time. With the four-year-olds, we take part in three or four courses and then put them back on the grass. Our farm and our hundred hectares of grass allow us to do so. We also make our own hay, oats, fenugreek, barley and alfalfa. It is also a pleasure, since we know exactly what we are giving to our horses. Going to competitions when our horses are tired is useless, since it means that their physique is not ready. We train them at home, make them light and tuned, without chasing competition performances.”

While waiting to embrace his future sporting career, Romeo enjoys a real life as a horse. © Private collection

We now bet that the sequel will allow Romeo des Aigles to find his way, whether on the racetracks or on the show jumping grounds. Who knows, maybe great things await him in breeding or in sport. “The magic of our sport lies in the meetings and the horses, which allow us to be good”, adds Mathieu Coutin. “If we fall into the right channel, with people who share your desires, it can lead to great stories and propel us where we never thought we would arrive.”

Photo on the front page: Romeo des Aigles during his presentation in Deauville for the Zangersheide approval. © Pixel Events