A theatre for horse sales




new look


Exquisite thoroughbreds deserve exquisite surroundings.  That was the starting point for the French designer, Francois Champsaur when he set out to remake the iconic sales ring of Deauville. Two years after its inauguration, sales have reached a record high.


By Camilla Alfthan


The planning of the design was just as meticulous as the bloodlines of the horses.

With record prices that peaked by the millions during August’s Yearlings Sales the Arqana ring proved that it is the place for some serious shopping.


The stakes were always sky high. To match the interiours with the majestic horses, the owners of the complex had contacted the Parisian designer, Francois Champsaur, who is perhaps best known for his modernist approach to classic hotels.


“Arqana was thinking about me for a long time to put a touch of modernity in a world which is not used to that sort of thing. I was free to make a new version of this very traditional kind of place,” tells Francois Champsaur who based his project on the existing structure of the historic building that he converted into a new arena and “a theatre for horses sales”.


“Arqana was about a new project, a contemporary energy, that should fill an ancient building,” tells Champsaur who transformed the formerly run-down, rather somber interiours from the 60s with a fresh and colourful style. In doing so, he remodeled the inside of the building so that the horses now enter directly from the paddock into the drop shaped ring.


To the designer, the bloodstock world was a new experience.


“I am only  familiar with the small, tough horses that you find in South of France, in Camargue, or in the Alps, where I spent a lot of time on vacation.

But the interesting and really fundamental thing in our job is about seeing the subject with a fresh look. That also means that I never begin a project by looking at other benchmarks. Every time it emerges from the meeting of passionate people, the location and the budget,” he tells.

To get a feeling of the complex and how it was used, Champsaur attended some sales.


As some hundred people are gathered in the same small place to bid on the same horses the atmosphere is intimate and often very charged, as competitors battle for the same blood.


“The first impressive thing was the effervescence, a wild atmosphere that needed to be contrasted  – or calmed down if you like – with a serene architecture.

The place welcomes sales of the most powerful and graceful horses.

So the project was about rhythm and harmony from the global space to the small details. I used the colors that I worked with as tools for their energy, but also for their ability to give a general feeling of serenity.

The materials mix between sophistication and simplicity, the softness of the leather that is contrasted with the roughness of simple wood  – fir tree – or the sand in the arena,” he tells.


“The first impressive thing was the effervescence, a wild atmosphere that needed to be contrasted  – or calmed down if you like – with a serene architecture.”


Horses are not the only valuables that are presented in Champsaur’s swanky arena.

Art sales have taken place in the Arqana complex and even concerts as the acoustic has turned out to be excellent, not just for the rhythmic chantings of the auctioneers.


Perhaps Champsaur’s designs have even had a positive impact on the buyers.

Since Arqanas new look was inaugurated at the Yearling Sales in 2011, prices have increased dramatically.

In 2013 they peaked when over 3,000 horses went under the hammer and the house passed the 100 million euro cap. During August’s Yearlings sales, three horses went for 1 million euro; two of them by Galileo and the other one by Dubawi who had also sired the most expensive yearling at 1 million 500,000 euros with the dam, It’s the Sky.

Record figures also continued to hit the scoreboard in the breeding stock sale, Europe’s final major auction of 2013.

The sale’s highest price came on opening day, Dec. 7, when a British bloodstock agent went to €800,000 for Darysina, a Kentucky-bred daughter of two-time U.S. leading sire Smart Strike.

By the end of the year, Arqana’s  total turnover was no less than a staggering  € 105,420,200 – a milestone for French thoroughbreds – and design.




Pristine presentation