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The English page - Betting down, tote dividends up

Gr. I-winning hurdler Aramon (Monsun). www.galoppfoto.de - Sandra Scherning


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 550 vom Freitag, 11.01.2019

Our article before Christmas on the success of Monsun´s sons in British and Irish N.H. racing has received several updates. The Boxing Day (St. Stephen´s Day for our Irish readers) meetings at Kempton, Leopardstown and Limerick and the following days saw several more Grade One victories, and the chances of a win at the big Cheltenham meeting in March have become much more likely.

Delta Work and Le Richebourg, both sons of Network, won Grade One races at the Leopardstown meeting and are now prominent in Cheltenham betting. Network is now well establish as a leading N.H. stallion in France, but also has had plenty of success in the U.K. and Ireland, notably with Champion Chase winner Sprinter Sacré, officially rated the best chaser since Arkle.

Hardline, by Arcadio, won a Grade One hurdle at Limerick, defeating odds-on favourite Getabird, a Getaway mare. However Getaway had a very productive festive season despite that, with several winners including another mare Verdana Blue, who surprisingly beat the reigning Champion Hurdler Buveur d´Air in a photo-finish in the Kempton Christmas Hurdle. This would make Verdana Blue herself a leading candidate for the Champion Hurdle, but she is apparently very ground dependent and will not run anywhere where the going is soft. She has an alternative programme mapped out in the all-weather flat fixtures, leading to Lingfield´s valuable Good Friday Marathon and then possibly on to the Melbourne Cup (!).

Monsun himself had a Grade One winner when Aramon, from his last crop, won over hurdles at Leopardstown, and he is now on course for the Supreme Novices Hurdle, the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival. Aramon was bred by Röttgen and was a 40,000 euros BBAG purchase. His dam is a half-sister to Schlenderhan´s German 2,000 Guineas winner Aviso. Other sons of Monsun who have had winners recently include Manduro, Shirocco and Schiaparelli, while Monsun is also the damsire of several leading stallions on the flat, such as Sea The Moon, who had such a promising first season in 2018, Sommerabend and Pastorius.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and obviously there are other German stallions doing well in N.H. racing. It´s Gino, now standing in France, for example, is sire of Arkle Chase favourite Lalor, while Fährhof-bred Malinas (Lomitas), now standing in Ireland and distantly related to Monsun, has also sired lots of winners over jumps. Laurina (Spanish Moon), currently second favourite for the Champion Hurdle after winning her last five races, is out of a German mare, a daughter of Alkalde, who like Monsun and also the dam of Malinas, is by German Triple Crown winner Königsstuhl.

As we start a new year, it is the right time to look at some of the figures from 2018, and on the whole they make grim reading. The German racing and breeding industry has shrunk alarmingly in the last 20 years and there is little sign of any improvement. To be sure, the number of live foals in 2018 at 876 was the highest for some years, but it is likely to be much lower in 2018 and is in any case still a long way short of the industry´s own minimum target of 1,200; it is little more than half of the numbers recorded in the 1990´s.

The number of racedays at 154 was only about half of the numbers at the end of the last century and the number of races run at 1,172 compares to about 3,000 then. Prize-money is virtually stagnant, and has been for several years. It was just over 13 million euros in 2018, down from almost 30 million before the turn of the century. The average prize-money per race increased slightly to 11,331 euros, the highest ever, but this is partly due to the fact that far fewer races are run. Prize-money in group races compares badly with the equivalent sums available in France, the U.K. or Ireland, and one of the main reasons is the lack of major sponsors. The only big new sponsor in the past few years is Longines (Grosser Preis von Berlin and Grosser Preis von Baden), and that is due to their worldwide programme of supporting the top races in every racing nation.

It is of course unfair to compare betting turnover in Germany with the sums staked in such jurisdictions as Japan and Hong Kong, where the turnover on each of their top races is more than is turned over in a whole year here, but the sums are still alarming. Total 2018 turnover in 2018 was 25.4 million euros, barely a fifth of the amount turned over 25 years ago. Even allowing for the fact that a considerable sum is probably staked through internet bookmakers and other outlets outside the country which does little to help German racing´s finances, this is still very worrying.

However a step in the right direction has been taken this year, with the decision of the Direktorium, following an initiative of the Owners´and Breeders´ Association. to apply a standard takeout of 15% to all win and place pools in Germany. Previously courses could set their own takeout, which was normally 22% or more. Certainly this should help strengthen the on course betting market, which would clearly be an advantage. We have so far had only meeting this year, last Sunday at Dortmund, where a small pre-lunch crowd bet an amount which was much too small for any conclusions to be drawn. However the win, and especially the place, dividends appeared to be much better than could have been expected under the old system. The real test will come with the big meetings later in the season, but it must be hoped that this development will give the German racing industry a much needed boost.

David Conolly-Smith


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