By Noah Joseph
While the U.S. thoroughbred breeding season may have come to a conclusion, in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s about to begin.The biggest market for racing in the Southern Hemisphere is in Australia, home to one of the biggest races in the world in the Melbourne Cup and the birthplace of legendary horses from Phar Lap to Winx. Over the years, Austrailian farms have purchased American broodmares to bolster the bloodstock in the country. Some of these mares have gone on to produce top runners in Australia. One of these mares came from Minnesota. That mare was Esprit De Bleu.
Esprit De Bleu was bred in Minnesota by Jeff and Debora Hilger, owners of Bleu Valley. The Hilgers owned and bred several top runners in Canterbury’s history, including Esprit De Bleu’s half-sister Rockin the Bleu’s. Esprit De Bleu, being the older sibling, made her debut at Canterbury in June 2010 in a race that turned into an absolute romp as she defeated her foes by over 10 lengths with Scott Stevens aboard. Stevens was unable to ride her in the Northern Lights Debutant that August. However, Dean Butler, Canterbury’s leading rider that year, stepped in and took the mount for the Hilgers and leading trainer Mac Robertson. This team, along with her impressive maiden victory, made Esprit De Bleu the heavy favorite in the Debutant. She proved that she was the real deal, winning by over three lengths going gate to wire in a field that included future stakes winners Congrats and Roses and All Bets Are Off. Esprit De Bleu was considered to be the next big name in Minnesota racing. Unfortunately, those superlatives disappeared.
In a government shutdown-filled season in 2011, Esprit De Bleu became a shell of her former self as she failed to reproduce her two-year-old form. Her best result was a 2nd place finish that summer in Canterbury’s Frances Genter Stakes behind the rising star Polar
Plunge. After that race, she raced for different connections in Delaware before being retired. The Cinderella story was thought to have ended, when in reality, it was just beginning.
Esprit de Bleu was exported to Australia after her racing career was over and had her first foal in 2013. Her first two offspring didn’t do much on the track, but her third foal did. Her third foal was Bleu Roche, a daughter sired by one of Australia’s leading sires, Fastnet Rock. In 2018, Bleu Roche won the Grade 3 VRC Red Roses Stakes at Flemington Racecourse, and this year, she sold for $415,080 ($600,000 in Australia) as a racing or broodmare prospect to Yu Long Investments. While Esprit De Bleu’s progeny now may come from the land down under, we’ll remember her from her humble beginnings in Minnesota. Hey Esprit De Bleu, G’day, mate!