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The English Page: Derby picture getting clearer (but still confusing)

Palmas, winning Düsseldorf's Diana Trial. www.galoppfoto.de - Stephanie Gruttmann


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 674 vom Freitag, 25.06.2021

The two most significant races in Germany last weekend were classic trials, for the Preis der Diana (Oaks) at Düsseldorf on Saturday and the following day for the Deutsches Derby itself at Hanover. The fillies´ race was a clear-cut affair, with Gestüt Etzean's homebred Palmas (Lord of England) making almost all the running and coming home to win cosily by three parts of a length and the same from Normfliegerin and India, both daughters of Adlerflug, whose sudden death at Easter is proving to be a huge loss for the German breeding industry.

Palmas had won her only previous start in very promising style and moved up in grade under a very positive ride from Eddy Pedroza to score here with more in hand than the distances might suggest. She is well bred, being out of a Surumu mare from an excellent family; many of the best performers have been milers, but the extra 100 metres of the Diana should prove to be no problem. Although this was only her second career start in the RaceBets.de Diana-Trial, she was, in the words of her jockey “extremely professional.” Trainer Andreas Wöhler said afterwards: “We always thought that she was talented; she won really nicely first time out and has developed very positively since.” She is now quoted as joint-favourite for the Diana and it is possible that she might now straight for that race at the beginning of August. 

The Derby trial on the Sunday was a different matter. Fourteen colts lined up, all hoping to qualify for the big race, and of course objective observers were hoping for a convincing winner. This was however not to be. At the furlong pole there still appeared to be half a dozen runners with a chance of winning, but in the event two horses coming from way back finished best of all to take the first two places, Gestüt Paschberg's homebred Quebueno (Adlerflug) finally scoring by half a length from Nordstrand (Reliable Man), with local hope Santorini (Siyouni) and Nacido (Tertullian) dead-heating for third place. Three of the runners finished a long way behind, but the first eleven were only separated by about seven lengths.

Quebueno, who had been last into the straight, was undoubtedly the best horse in the race, but at the time of writing it is unclear whether he will run in the Derby. He is clearly now qualified and the Hanover race has a good record as a Derby trial; in fact his sire Adlerflug won this race himself en route to his 2007 Hamburg triumph. The problem is that his trainer Jean-Pierre Carvalho has three other intended Derby runners who are all more highly rated than Quebueno.

The clear inference from all this is that the Hanover form – as far as the Derby is concerned - is probably not worth much. The whole Derby situation is still confusing. It is now only just over a week away and is the most valuable race in the German calendar. It is also the only German race in which there is a strong ante-post market. Bookmakers must now be laughing all the way to the bank; all the early market leaders are now non-runners or are now available at many times their early prices. None of the winners of the three major 3yo races so far – the Bavarian Classic, the German 2,000 Guineas and the Union-Rennen  - will be running, and they would normally be the three highest-rated runners. The Derby field is limited to 20 runners and it looks as if more than 20 will stay in on Monday, the final forfeit stage. In this case those with the lowest ratings will be eliminated. The highest-rated potential runner is now Gestüt Ittlingen´s homebred Sampras (Iffraaj), who finished a well-beaten twelfth at Hanover on Sunday and is now quoted at 50-1 for the big race!

At the moment it seems that Stall Nizza's homebred Alter Adler (another Adlerflug!) will start favourite at Hamburg on the Sunday of next week. He did not run in any of the accepted trials, in fact he has so far not run in Germany at all. All of his four starts have been in France and he has not yet finished out of the first two-. He has also won over the full Derby distance and is obviously a serious candidate. However it is hard to say how his form stacks up compared to the leading local hopes. It seems very unlikely that there will be any foreign-trained runners.

The Hamburg meeting starts next Wednesday and continues on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with very early starts for the last three days. It is still not clear if racegoers, or how many of them, will be allowed on to the track. In all there will be six group races run, but the Derby, on the final Sunday, is clearly the top event by quite a margin, both in terms of prestige and prize-money.

It is therefore obvious that this weeken's racing is relatively low key. The only black type event is the Group Three Wettstar.de - Dortmund Grand Prix over the neutral distance of 1750 metres. This is often the first occasion when smart German 3yo´s can run in this grade against their elders, and the classic crop is now represented by Mythico (Adlerflug) and the filly Marlar (Kallisto), Mythico was a good winner of the German 2000 Guineas; although he is by Adlerflug, he looks like a non-stayer and this race could be perfect for him. He is easily preferred of this pair, although the filly of course is receiving a lot of weight.

Of the older horses, we would love to see the veteran gelding Potemkin (New Approach) run well. He is an absolute course specialist and has run four times in this race, winning in 2016 and 2019. He is certainly not overraced for a 10yo, but he has a penalty and may not be able to conceded weight to the 5yo Runnymede (Dansili), let alone to Mythico, who, if he is anywhere near his best, faces a relatively easy task here

Next week we shall know for certain who is running in the German Derby and shall take a more detailed look at that race, as well as the other group races at the Hamburg meeting.

David Conolly-Smith

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