Breeders Corner \ Le Filou

24 July

One of the most influential sires in New Zealand racing over the past century has been the French-bred entire Le Filou.

By Vatellor, Le Filou stood at Jack Macky's Pirongia Stud and became a major influence in the pedigrees of some of Australasia's very best performers.

Pirongia Stud was owned by Jack Macky, who inherited the property from his father. Originally the property was a 460 acre block that ran sheep and cattle. Jack Macky snr was well renowned for breeding draught horses, but the world was changing.

By the time that Jack Macky took over, farming was becoming mechanised and the need for draught horses in decline. Jack bought himself a thoroughbred broodmare and when her first foal was a winner, the idea that became Pirongia Stud developed. By the 1950s the other farming activities had been phased out and the stud was fully established.

The first stallion to stand at Pirongia Stud was Contact, followed by Triumvir and Duccio. Le Filou arrived in 1951 and not many would have thought he would be so defining. Typical of horses imported at the time he was beautifully bred, but no superstar as a racehorse. He may have become too expensive for NZ buyers if he hadn’t been injured as a 3YO after winning three times in England and France, his best victory coming in the Ormonde Stakes at Newbury.

Born in 1946, Le Filou is out of the Casterari mare Fileuse who is a direct descendant of Boxeuse (by Teddy). Purchased by Jack Macky, Le Filou stood his first season at stud in 1951 for a reported service fee of 125gns.
This rose to 200gns in 1963 (after winning the sires premiership in 1961-62) and reached 500gns in 1966 at the peak of his career.

His full stud career yielded 406 foals over 17 crops (only 24 foals per crop on average). When the races won by his progeny were put into the black type system, he had left 56 SW (an amazing 13.8%) and 22 Gr.1 winners.

Among Le Filou's best progeny were the Melbourne Cup winners Light Fingers and Red Handed; Caulfield Cup winner Big Philou; Auckland Cup winners Floutulla and Senor; Wellington Cup winners Bon Filou and Michael Molloy; Brisbane Cup winner Fulmen and New Zealand Cup winner Noir Filou.

While the above horses were all dominant performers at 2 miles, some of Le Filou's very best performers were the Great Northern Derby winners Cracksman and Peterman, LKS Mackinnon Stakes winner Skint Dip, and quality mares Honour Me, Gay Poss, and Kind Regards.

He was crowned Champion Sire four times in 1961-62, 1963-64, 1965-66 and 1966-67.

Le Filou has also proven to be a wonderful broodmare sire with his daughters responsible for Surround, Furys Order, Sir Silver Lad, Bardall, The Gentry, Sobar, Desirable, Vice Regal, Oopik, Idolou, Zephyrus, Purple Patch, Dark Suit, Kaukapakapa, Knee High, Valencia, Oncidon, Fair Sir, Vibeke, Penny Edition, Invade, Fairview Lad, Bound to Honour, Suleiman, Greatness, Tashi, and many more.

Le Filou is found in the pedigrees of a number of our modern day stallions still and features in the family trees of Lonhro (sire of Pierro, Impending, Denman, Exosphere), Darci Brahma, Grosvenor, Grunt, Tarzino and Pendragon to name a few.

In 1967, just after being crowned Champion Sire for the fourth time, his 11 yearlings sold for an average of $3,395. He was the second leading sire by average (behind Alcimedes at $5,012). That year, 293 yearlings averaged $1058.50 with the highest priced yearling of the sale being sold for $12,000 and the top priced yearling by Le Filou sold for $6,000.

Le Filou died in 1969 and was buried outside his box in the stable block that was specially built for him. A concrete structure with 12 boxes and a small staff quarter out the back, no expense had been spared in its construction.

In his obituary in the Breeder’s Bulletin of Dec 1969, it is stated that Le Filou would have a lasting legacy as a sire and broodmare sire. This has become true in every respect and Le Filou went on to be crowned Champion Broodmare sire several times.

There are plenty of examples of horses out of Le Filou mares. Top broodmare sire and racehorse Vice Regal is out of a Le Filou mare, and champion racehorse Lonhro’s fourth dam is Gay Poss an AJC Oaks winner by Le Filou. Zabeel is another who feels his influence, as his fifth dam Vaneuse is a three-quarter sister to Le Filou. Is it any wonder that the Zabeel over Vice Regal mares cross has been so successful - 35 runners for 9 stakeswinners (25.7%) of which 5 are Group 1 winners (14.28%) - amazing stats!

When Le Filou died in 1969, Pirongia Stud was 300 acres of lush farmland looking towards Pirongia Mountain. Pirongia Stud also stood the sires Idomeneo, Ironic and Headland post Le Filou.

The 1980 stallion register was the last time the stud appeared in that publication. When Jack Macky died, the property was sold and was split up. The stable block remained on a property that was about 60 acres. This was split up again and the stable block now exists as part of a 12 acre property on Macky Road.

Credit: Renee Geelen \ Thoroughbred News
Notable NZ Thoroughbreds

Pictured: Le Filou and Jack Macky