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The English page - Baden-Baden doubts

Autor: 

David Conolly-Smith

TurfTimes: 

Ausgabe 651 vom Freitag, 15.01.2021

Deutscher Galopp, the successor to German Racing and before that, theDirektorium, prepared last week a provisional fixture list for the German group races in 2021. It is clear that under the present circumstances nothing can as yet be set in stone; the current lockdown is due to end on January 31st but is almost certain to be extended, possibly until Easter. Even then it is very unlikely that racegoers will be allowed on to the racecourse before the summer. Deutscher Galopp boss Dr. Michael Vesper, at a press conference today (Thursday), made it clear that there will be no parallel racedays, i.e. days with more than one racecourse in operation, until mid-June at the earliest.

Last year because of the covid-19 pandemic, there were numerous changes to the traditional fixture list as we have known it for several decades. For example, the two Guineas races and the Derby were all run a week later than usual, the Grosser Preis von Berlin (normally mid-August) was run in October, the Preis von Europa (normally late September) in its place in mid-August, the Oleander-Rennen (normally early May) was run in November, and the normally week-long meetings at Hamburg in early July and Baden-Baden in early September  were reduced. Prize-money was in many cases halved.

This new fixture list takes us back to the programme as we knew it in 2019 and in previous years. It begins with the Group Three Frühjahrs-Meile at Düsseldorf on April 11th and ends with the top late autumn 2yo race, the Herzog von Ratibor-Rennen at Krefeld on November 14th. The seven German Group One races will be run on their traditional dates, as follows:

Deutsches Derby, Hamburg, July 4th.

Grosser Dallmayr-Preis, Munich, July 25th

Preis der Diana (Oaks) Düsseldorf, August 1st

Grosser Preis von Berlin, Hoppegarten, August 8th

Grosser Preis von Baden, Baden-Baden, September 5th

Preis von Europa, Cologne, September  26th

Grosser Preis von Bayern, Munich, November 7th.

All the above races are run on a Sunday. In addition, the Group Two Mehl-Mülhens-Rennen (2,000 Guineas) will be run at Cologne on Whit Monday, May 24th and the 1,000 Guineas at Düsseldorf the following Sunday,  May 30th.

As regards prize-money, it is hoped that this can be improved from last year´s level to about 90% of the levels of previous years. Group Three races will generally be worth a total of 50,000 euros and Group Two races 65,000 euros. This of course is well below the levels of prize-money in most other European countries. There are a few exceptions, usually where a big and generous sponsor is involved, but money – or rather, lack of it – is certain to be a major theme again this year.  Racecourses are currently facing big losses which will continue as long as racing is held behind closed doors. No gate money, no income from catering and other services, no on course tote betting, and the strong possibility of sponsors backing out, all add up to negative financial results.

This applies particularly to the big meetings at Hamburg and Baden-Baden. The proposed fixture lists six days racing at Hamburg, culminating on Derby Day, July 4th, when the Derby itself and two other group races are due to be run. A normal Derby Day, assuming good weather would attract 20,000+ paying spectators. Should there still be restrictions in place in early July it seems wildly unlikely that all six days could take place as planned. In 2020 the meeting was limited to three days and that could well be the situation again this year if a lockdown is still in place.

The position is more complicated, and potentially much worse, at Baden-Baden, where three meetings are scheduled: the Spring Meeting in the first week of June (usually four days, although in earlier times six), the Grosse Woche at the end of August and first week of September (normally six days, but only five in 2020), and the October Sales & Racing Festival (first three days, then two, and in 2020 only one). The racecourse at Iffezheim, about six miles west of the actual town and popular resort of Baden-Baden, has been managed for the past ten years by Baden Racing, a private company whose main shareholders are Dr. Andreas Jacobs  and Paul von Schubert, both very well-known characters in the German racing world and both members of leading racing and breeding families. However, after years of losses, according to some reports totally 5 million euros, these two in effect threw in the towel at the end of last years and cancelled all contracts.

Since then endless discussions have been taking place behind the scenes, but so far no concrete proposals for the future of the racecourse have emerged. The interested parties include not only Messrs Jacobs and von Schubert, but also the village of Iffezheim, who own the actual land where the racecourse is situated, the town of Baden-Baden, whose hospitality industry is a major beneficiary of the race meetings, the state of Baden-Württemberg, the sales companyBBAG, whose offices and sales ring are just down the road, the German Owners´ and Breeders´ Association, and Deutscher Galopp. The last three entities have in effect been subsidizing Baden-Baden for the past two years and are certainly willing to continue doing so, but for how long and for how much remains to be seen.

There are currently persistent rumours that this year´s Spring Meeting will be totally cancelled and that the Grosse Woche will be reduced to three or four days, with some of the group races scheduled for Baden-Baden then run at other tracks. At the moment it is impossible to predict how and when racing will resume at this beautiful and historic track, founded in 1858 and Germany´s leading racecourse ever since. However the meetings at Baden-Baden have been such a vital and essential part of the German racing scene that the loss of this racecourse would be a tragedy that has to be avoided at all costs.

David Conolly-Smith

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