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The involvement of the Nazi government of wartime Germany in Thoroughbred racing and breeding seems, on the surface, fairly crazy.

The Nazis were fighting a war on many fronts against nations which had everything to lose if they capitulated and allowed the Germans to win. Therefore, it would appear that taking time out for leisure sports, art appreciation, and the great triviality of racing would be a poor idea.

The German high command, however, had no doubts about their destiny, and they were busy amassing the components of world dominance in every field. And as thorough believers in genetics as a tool in forming the master race, they were focused on acquiring the most elite Thoroughbreds for their racing program.

Josef Pulte was a lieutenant colonel in the German army who began stocking the army stud at Altefeld with the best bloodstock in Europe, “buying” broodmares and stallions from Joseph Widener, Edouard de Rothschild, Comte de Rivaud, Lord Derby, the Aga Khan, and others. Issuing a bill of sale for whatever price he was willing to pay, Pulte cleaned out some of the best breeding stock in France and shipped them across the German border.

And of course, he wanted Marcel Boussac’s stock, especially Pharis. A lovely near-black son of Pharos who had won the French Derby, Prix Noailles, and Grand Prix de Paris, Pharis retired unbeaten in three starts in 1939 and entered stud at Boussac’s Haras Fresnay-le-Buffard in 1940.

The German army gained control of France near the end of the breeding season in 1940, and Pulte tried to force Boussac to sell Pharis for a pittance and a piece of paper that gave the German invaders the pretense of a purchase for legal use. Boussac refused.

So Pulte stole Pharis and moved him to Altefeld, where the splendid stallion stood from 1941 through much of the 1945 season, when Allied forces moved into western Germany. Pharis was among the first horses returned to their owners, and he covered a few mares for Boussac in 1945.

Boussac, as legal owner of Pharis, had to sign the stallion service certificates for the foals the stallion sired at Altefeld in order for them to be registered, and Boussac refused. His horse had been stolen, and he never gave in.

As a result, the German Jockey Club thus refused to register them after the war.

The only top-class horse that Pharis sired while at Altefeld was the filly Asterbluete, who won the German Derby in 1949 and was among the last foals sired by Pharis before he was repatriated to France. But she was not registered. Likewise, a mare foaled in Germany in 1943 and named Nerepha was imported to the US after WWII. Genetically, she was by Pharis out of unbeaten Nereide, dam also of the unbeaten Nordlicht, winner of the German Derby and also imported to the US.

Nerepha produced two registered foals in the US, according to data from Bloodstock Research, and one of them was the steeplechase stakes winner Negocio (by Pintor), who was a gelding.

Pharis was the leading sire in France in 1944 with his first Boussac-bred and managed crop, then again in 1950, 1951, and 1952. The theft of Pharis deprived Boussac of the stallion’s services for most of five breeding seasons when a stallion tends to be most successful, but Pharis still managed to sire top-class racers year after year, including such classic stars as Corejada (French 1000 Guineas, Irish Oaks), Scratch (French Derby, St Leger at Doncaster), Cortil (Gimrack), Talma (St Leger), Auriban (French Derby), and Philius (French Derby).