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The English page - Compliments all round

Wonderful Moon, clear favourite for the German Derby, with trainer Henk Grewe. www.galoppfoto.de - Sandra Scherning


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 618 vom Freitag, 15.05.2020

These are difficult times for almost everybody, but it must be said that the past week has been very positive for the German racing and breeding industries. On the one hand, there have been some good results for German-bred runners and stallions in several different countries, and on the other, the resumption of racing after a two month break last week in Hanover (Thursday), Cologne (Friday), Mülheim (Saturday) and Hoppegarten (Sunday) must be regarded as a complete success.

Compliments are due to the racecourses concerned for their organization and to all taking part, who abided by the rules. The races were held behind closed doors with only those essential to the racing action allowed on to the racecourse, and then only if registered and approved beforehand. Face masks had to be worn at all times and social distancing was enforced. It certainly looked a bit weird to see the winning jockey in a face mask being interviewed by a journalist in a face mask using a microphone on an extension stick, but it worked well enough, so there is some hope that the rest of the revised fixture list can be held as planned. Racing behind closed doors has already worked well in such high profile venues as Hong Kong, Japan and Australia, and Germany has now followed suit, while France resumed four days later and we are still waiting for the U.K. and Ireland to join the fun, although that appears unlikely before June.

The number of infections due to the coronavirus, and in particular deaths, is far lower in Germany that in other comparable countries and praise is due to the German government, who have handled the situation very well in the opinion of this writer, and also to the racing authorities here. We are not yet out of the woods, as covid-19 is still likely to stay around for a long time and precautions such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing also. Racing is expected to continue behind closed doors until the end of August, and a revised fixture list has been published; the two Guineas races will now be run two weeks later than originally planned, and the German Derby one week later, on July 12th. The Derby meeting itself is now reduced to just three days. There should be no problem with the Preis der Diana (Oaks) on August 2nd, when one hopes that the situation will be slowly getting back to normal, although still without spectators. One item of good news is that the prize money for the Derby and Diana, the two richest races of the German season, will remain unchanged, but most lesser races will only pay connections 50% of their normal money.

Hanover set the ball rolling last week with a huge card, which included three listed races. After another mild winter and a very dry spring, the going was very fast for all last week´s races, and it was difficult to come off the pace. One that did so in eye-catching style was the Irish-bred Majestic Colt (Clodovil), trained by Andreas Wöhler and well ridden by Bauyrzhan Murzabayev, who brought him with a strong late run from the back of the field to get up close home and win the listed Sprintpreis. The winning margin was only a neck, but he was probably value for much more and the lightly-raced 5yo will now contest group races.  Another very lightly-raced Irish-bred, the locally-trained Jin Jin (Canford Clifs) won the listed race over a mile for fillies and mares in a desperate finish with Wöhler´s hot favourite Axana (Soldier Hollow), scoring by a short head; the two principals could meet again in next week´s Badener Meile. Murzabayev, last year´s champion jockey in Germany, just lost out here but was back on the scorecard when taking the final listed race, for fillies and mares over ten furlongs, on Stex (Lord of England), also bred in Ireland and trained in Hoppegarten by Roland Dzubasz. The races were all extremely competitive and the results showed clearly that all the leading trainers already had their strings in good form.

Pride of place has to go to Cologne trainer Henk Grewe, the star of Friday´s Cologne card, when he saddled three winners, all partnered by stable jockey Andrasch Starke, including the two main features, the Group Two Carl Jaspers-Preis for older horses over 2400 metres and the Group Three Cologne Classic for 3yo´s over 2100 metres. The former went to the 6yo Be My Sheriff (Lawman), who chased the early pace, went on more than two furlongs out and was not hard pressed to score by two lengths from another 6yo, the 2017 German Derby winner Windstoss (Shirocco); once again, the first two could meet again in Baden-Baden.

Of more significance, though a grade lower, was the Cologne Classic, normally run at Munich as the Bavarian Classic, which is always one of the most reliable trials for the German Derby. Grewe´s representative here was Wonderful Moon (Sea The Moon), one of our top juveniles last year, who showed clearly that he had trained on with a very facile success from Grocer Jack (Oasis Dream) and Palao (Champs Elysees); this was almost certainly strong form and all three should be followed – and could in fact meet again in the Union-Rennen here. Both the winner and Be My Sheriff were bred by Gestüt Görlsdorf, currently enjoying a real purple patch.

The Grewe/ Starke team combined again to take Hoppegarten´s main event on Sunday, the Dr. Busch-Memorial, thus giving them a clean sweep of the weekend´s group races. This was another classic trial, but this time over a mile and probably of more relevance for the Mehl-Mülhens-Rennen (2,000 Guineas), and their Rubaiyat (Areion), starting at 30-100 on, also won easily enough, taking his unbeaten record to five. Bred by Gestüt Karlshof and a 26,000 euros BBAG yearling, Rubaiyat runs in the colours of Darius Racing and is obviously smart – he narrowly defeated Wonderful Moon in last October´s Preis des Winterfavoriten -  and he is also entered in the Derby, although on breeding does not look certain to stay the trip. Certainly Henk Grewe, Germany´s champion trainer in 2019 both by number of winners and by prize-money has plenty to look forward to this year, with Wonderful Moon now clear favourite for the German Derby and Rubaiyat heading the Mehl-Mülhens-Rennen market.

Last week´s four meetings were also notable for an extremely strong betting turnover, especially in view of the fact that there was no on-course betting. However the figures were much better than might have been expected, partly as a result of the “Wetten, dass” initiative described here last week, partly because German punters had been starved for two months and were hungry for action and partly because of the attractive racing and competitive fields. We must hope that this continues with this weekend´s racing, a low level card at Munich on Friday, and better racing at Düsseldorf on Saturday and Cologne on Sunday, both featuring good races for 3yo fillies. However the next big test will come next weekend with Baden-Baden´s May meeting; it will certainly be strange to have racing there without spectators and also without foreign-trained runners (not allowed to run here before June) but following the success of last week´s meetings, the signs are positive that this will also go well.

David Conolly-Smith


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