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All eyes on Ascot

Torquator Tasso will be following in the hoofprints of Danedream, who had also won the Arc the previous year, who won the "King George" in 2012, and Novellist a year later. ©galoppfoto


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 728 vom Freitag, 22.07.2022

The best race run in Germany last weekend was the listed BBAG Diana Trial at Mülheim, a late trial for the Group One Preis der Diana (Oaks) in three weeks' time. Twelve fillies lined up, with the locally-trained Narmada (Adlerflug) favourite; the Brümmerhof homebred had been runner-up last time in a similar event at Düsseldorf. However the race looked open with two raiders from France and one from Newmarket also in the field, and in the end it was one of these who triumphed, with Narmada again runner-up after looking likely to win a furlong out. However Abhayaa (Australia), trained in Chantilly by Carina Fey, finished fast on the inside to get up close home and score by a head. Valpolicella (Amaron), who had made most of the running, kept on for third.

Abhayaa, who was bred in Ireland by her Swiss owner Natalie Steinmann, was having only her third race and can certainly be expected to make further progress. She is entered in the Preis der Diana – neither of the two placed fillies are – but it would require huge improvement for her to have a chance in the big race. One cannot imagine trainer Markus Klug, whose two runners here finished 4th and 8th, but who has four in the top five in the ante-post betting on the Preis der Diana, being unduly perturbed. That said however, Abhayaa is clearly a very useful sort who should go on to further successes, but probably not at Group One level. The handicapper had given her a rating of GAG 88 (=international 96) which seems fair enough.

One 3yo filly on the undercard at Mülheim also created a very positive impression, Gestüt Wittekind's homebred Nina's Lob (Lope de Vega), who won a maiden race over 2000 metres, the same distance as the Diana trial, in very good style on her belated debut. She is entered in the Preis der Diana, but trainer Andreas Wöhler made it clear that she is unlikely to run there: “She is very, very good, but she needs more time and is likely to run next in a listed race at Hoppegarten a week after the Diana.” Nina's Lob is from a highly successful family and is a half-sister to Nina's Shadow (Shamardal) who was sold to Hong Kong where he was renamed Pakistan Star and became both famous as the winner of two extremely valuable Group One races and also infamous because of his refusal on several occasions to race. 

The main event in Germany this weekend is the Group Three Fürstenberg-Rennen over 2400 metres at Hoppegarten, a race which used to be run with different conditions at Baden-Baden. It is now for 3yo's and up, but it seems that only two of the classic crop will run, Antinanco (Champs Elysees) and Lotterbov (Protectionist), both trained by Markuis Klug. Lotterbov finished 14th of 20 in the German Derby, and is the first runner from that race to reappear. Antinanco was also entered in the Derby but failed to get into the field. It would be a surprise if either of them was able to defeat some smart older performers here, the best of whom should be Virginia Storm (Soldier Hollow) and the much improved 4yo filly India (Adlerflug). India, an Ittlingen homebred, is unbeaten in three starts this year and last time was a good winner of a Group Three over 2050 metres at Magdeburg; she is up in trip here, but on pedigree that should be no problem. 

Virginia Storm is also four and is a very consistent performer at this level; he was runner-up in a Group Two at Baden-Baden and then finished third to Torquator Tasso in a Group Two at Hamburg, form which we hope will look much better by Sunday. Six-year-old Nubius was runner-up in this race Last year and is also not out of it. He will be ridden by Rene Piechulek, who is in for a very hectic few days. Today (Thursday) he is riding at Bad Harzburg, tomorrow at Vichy, Saturday at Ascot (see below) and Sunday at Hoppegarten.

Obviously Ascot is the most interesting and also most important of these, as there he will be partnering Peter Schiergen's good filly Novemba in the Group Three Valiant Stakes and then Torquator Tasso for Marcel Weiss in the Group One King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. This mile and a half event, named after the parents of the current queen, is generally regarded as the best race of the summer and is basically the British equivalent of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which Torquator Tasso won last year. He will be following in the hoofprints of Danedream, who had also won the Arc the previous year, who won in 2012, and Novellist a year later, who would certainly have been favourite for the Arc that year had he not run a fever the day before the race, as the two previous German winners

The King George has only six runners, but small fields in such events are quite common, and all six are worthy contenders for a top Group One race. Even the two outsiders according to the betting, 6yo Broome and 5yo Pyledriver are Group One winners, in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and Coronation Cup respectively. 5yo Mishriff was a very unlucky runner-up in the Eclipse Stakes last time; he is the biggest money-earner in the field, having won the Saudi Cup last year. Strangely enough, there is no 4yo in the line-up, but the two 3yo's are the cherries on the cake and according to the bookies, the most likely winners: Westover was an easy winner of the Irish Derby after earlier an unlucky third at Epsom; that winner Desert Crown unfortunately misses this race, for which he would have been hot favourite. And then there is Emily Upjohn, the only filly in the field and the mount of Frankie Dettori; she was just touched off in the Oaks at Epsom and was due to run last week in the Irish Oaks  until prevented by problems with the plane due to fly her over. So far we just do not know how good the current crop of 3yo´s is, but these two are certainly among the best of them. Torquator Tasso is reportedly in very good form, and even though his trainer stresses that the Arc is the main target, he seems overpriced at 12-1, even in this elite field.

Novemba is also in with a definite chance in her event, a Group Three mile race for fillies and mares, but over the round course, which should certainly suit her better than the straight course. Nine are declared to run, six of them 3yo's and Novemba is quoted as third favourite at 7-2. We like the chances of both German runners and hope to see Piechulek fly back to Germany having been placed (at least!) in both of them.

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