A million Frenchmen can’t be wrong

by Alan Leavitt

Love You, the French trotting stallion, is playing an increasingly important role here in the United States. He came dangerously close to having a Hambletonian winner in International Moni, who won his elimination but then was interfered with in the final. Last year, Julie and Andy Miller’s Venerate won the Mohawk Million, among other stakes races, and is one of the favorites for this year’s Hambletonian. Taken all together, it cried out for an in-depth look at Love You’s pedigree.

For starters, Love You is by Coktail Jet, who was an outstanding racehorse with earnings of $2,376,219, almost all of it in Europe, although he did race a few times here in the United States. Wherein lies another story, but that comes later.

His dam is Guilty Of Love, by And Arifant, and unfortunately there are no racing records available for her or any of the other mares in her Tail-Mare line. For the record, I just invented that term.

But you don’t have to look far to see that Love You has almost as much American blood as he does European. His sire, Coktail Jet, is entirely American-bred on his dam’s side, being out of Ambro Glamour, who is by Super Bowl, and out of Speedy Sug, by Speedy Count, out of Sug, by Hickory Smoke.

Here a word about the genesis of the names Speedy Sug, and Sug, whose dam is Cassin Hanover. Lawrence Sheppard, the founder of the Hanover Shoe Farms, had three daughters, Alma, Sug and Patricia. They were all horse-women. As a little boy, my father took me to the Shoe Farms to watch Alma Sheppard drive Dean Hanover in an exhibition mile. Earlier, she had set a world’s record with the horse in a time trial. If memory serves, Alma was 11 at the time.

Sug, who was married to a Hanover doctor, Todd DeVan, is the mother of Larry DeVan. Larry has been an activist in our business, with numerous important contributions.

And finally, Patricia is the mother of the leading figure in American harness racing today, Russell Williams. Russell is both the sole proprietor of the Hanover Shoe Farms and the president of our registry, the United States Trotting Association (USTA).

If you’re still with me, and I probably should have provided a map, Cassin Hanover was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Sheppard, and they were honoring their daughter Sug Devan, when they named those two fillies after her.

Which, after a long detour over old roads, brings us back to Guilty Of Love, the dam of Love You. In the third generation of his Tail-Male, or top sire line, is Quick Song, a strictly American-bred horse by Victory Song. And the horse he sired, who is Guilty Of Love’s grandsire, Sharif Di Iesolo, was one of the greatest Italian racehorses of all time, and then one of their greatest sires.

Meanwhile, the plot thickens even more when you see that Amour D’aunou, the dam of Guilty Of Love, is by Speedy Somolli. Here, this kid takes a little credit, because I syndicated Speedy Somolli before he won the Hambletonian, and was proud to stand him throughout his career as a sire. Didn’t do too bad, either, in that department, with three Hambletonian winners.

Many years ago, Jim Harrison predicted that the results of melding American and French trotting blood would be synergistic. As usual, Jim was right, and Love You is the living proof.

It happens that this kid has a personal connection to Love You. The horse was bred and is still owned by Jean Pierre Du Bois, J. P. to his friends. Jean Pierre and I have been good friends ever since we met when he brought Coktail Jet to race at The Meadowlands in the mid-‘80s. J. P. is the leading figure in French harness racing, and I mean every phase of it, by at least an hour and a half.

A few years ago, my wife, Meg Jewett, and I spent a week in Paris, where we had gone to experience the Prix D’Amerique in person. I should add that Meg is fluent in French, and I am not. This despite having taken two years in French at Andover, where it is taught by the direct method, meaning only French is spoken from the time you say, “Bonjour, M. Forbush,” to the moment you say, “Adieu, Monsieur.”

While we were in France, we spent a delightful day with Jean Pierre. It started with croissants at a little café where a talking parrot, who was not caged, kept urging us to eat with, “Mangey, Monsieur. Mangey, Madame.”

J.P. spent the day showing us all his many properties and telling great stories that went with them. As the day was coming to an end, we drove into still another farm, and by then it was raining fairly hard.

We came to a large paddock in which there was one horse. He was standing in the rain, nibbling at a round bale of hay that was just barely covered by a little open sided shed. I asked J. P. who the horse was, and he answered proudly, “Coktail Jet!”

And then, as we continued to watch one of the greatest French horses who ever lived chomping away in the rain at the round bale, Jean Pierre said, with a big grin, “Self-serve!”