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The English page - Could lightning strike twice?


David Conolly-Smith

There are only three days´ racing left in Germany this year, all with very low key cards; twice at Dortmund, and of course we are all hoping that the weather will allow the Boxing Day fixture at Mülheim, very popular in the past and revived for 2020, to go ahead. With no valuable races left, the 2020 champions are clear. The 2019 champion jockey Bauyrzhan Murzabayev and trainer Henk Grewe both repeated their success of last year. Murzabayev actually improved his 2019 tally of 111 to 119, despite two lengthy suspensions (for whip offences) and the loss of many fixtures to Covid-19. The one blot on his record is the fact that he has not yet won a Group One, but that seems certain to come before too long; he switches for 2021 from Andreas Wöhler to Peter Schiergen. Runner-up in both of the last two seasons is Maxim Pecheur, attached to the Markus Klug stable. He is currently on the injured list, while the Kazakhstan-born Murzabayev is sitting out his latest suspension by spending Christmas at home, so nothing much is likely to change here.

Henk Grewe had another wonderful season, and also added 18 foreign successes and 462,000 euros in prize-money to his 55 domestic winners and just over a million in prize-money, so that he is well clear in the trainers´ list, both by number of winners and prize-money won. Two Group One victories (Donjah in the Preis von Europa and Sunny Queen in the GPvBayern) were his highlights, but there were numerous other big race winners sent out from his Cologne stable and clearly he is here to stay. The trainers following him at a respectable distance were Markus Klug, Andreas Wöhler and Peter Schiergen, and it can be confidentially be predicted that this quartet will again dominate the German training scene in 2021. One newcomer who must be mentioned is Marcel Weiss, who in his first season only finished ninth in the list by winners, but fourth by prize-money, thanks to the Group One exploits of Torquator Tasso.

Prize-money of course has been a big problem this year. With paying racegoers banned from attending most race meetings, prize-money was slashed, usually by 50%, for the vast majority of races. Group Two races were being run in the summer with 20,000 euros to the winners, and Group Three with 16,000. There were however exceptions, mainly when major sponsors were involved. Both the Deutsches Derby and the Preis der Diana (Oaks) were staged with their “normal” prize-money of 390,000 and 300,000 euros respectively to the winner. Also the series of 18 BBAG sales races for 2yo´s and 3yo´s carried their normal prize-money, which had of course been paid by the consignors at their sales. As a result the statistics are to a certain extent distorted, with some Group Two winners collecting much more than some of the Group One victors. However the Derby and the Preis der Diana, as the two most important classics, were clearly the top races as well as being the most lucrative. Both winners In Swoop and Miss Yoda were trained abroad, but both were German-bred and  –owned.

As a result Gestüt Auenquelle, who had horses placed in both races, are the leading German owners, while Gestüt Schlenderhan (France), owner of In Swoop, are in second place and Westerberg (Georg von Opel), owner of Miss Yoda, in third place, both with just one runner. Darius Racing, Gestüt Röttgen and Godolphin (with two Group One successes by Barney Roy) follow at a respectable distance. The only 2020 table where the positions could still change is that of the leading breeders, where Stiftung Gestüt Fährhof hold a tiny lead over Stall Ullmann and Gestüt Etzean, with Röttgen and Auenquelle (whose biggest earner was not a homebred) well back.

As far as sires are concerned, that winner was clear after the Derby was run in July, when both the first two were sons of Adlerflug. Later he also had the first two in the Grosser Preis von Berlin, and his first sires´ championship was assured. Adlerflug stands at Schlenderhan in Monsun´s old box; he turns 17 shortly but that is no great age for a stallion and he probably has several years of success still to come; despite having champion Iquitos in his second crop, and Preis der Diana winner Lacazar in his third, he has had only small crops so far, but he is highly likely to have much bigger and better books in future as a result of this season´s successes. He is a son of In The Wings as is his runner-up Soldier Hollow, himself champion sire in 2016, 2018 and 2019 and generally regarded as the most successful German-based stallion of recent years (and the subject of a nice film made public this week). Veteran Areion had another good year and is a clear third.

Looking forward to 2021, it is clear that a lot will depend on the Covid-19 pandemic and how quickly it will end. At the moment Germany is under a strict lockdown, but professional sports, including racing, are allowed, behind closed doors of course. The sooner spectators are allowed back on the racecourse the better for racing. With the possibility that things might get back to normal by next summer, assuming no new disasters and a positive result from the new vaccines, 2021 could well be a vintage year for German racing and breeding. In 2020 we had the best crop of 3yo´s for several years, and several of the major performers are to stay in training. This is true of the top colts Torquator Tasso and Dicaprio as well as In Swoop (though he is of course trained in France) and the filly Sunny Queen (though sold to South African interests). These, and possibly some others as well, will make the home team difficult to beat in our Group One races.

And then there are the classic contenders, still two years of age but shortly to become 3yo´s. There were no really outstanding juveniles in Germany last year and the 2021 classics look wide open. It is quite possible that the top 3yo of 2021 will not even have run yet. Bookmaker RaceBets currently has four colts as joint-favourites at 19-1, five more at 24-1 and another six at 29-1. This is based mainly on their 2yo performances in 2020, which may well turn out to be totally irrelevant by next summer; the German Derby will be run at Hamburg on July 4th and the Preis der Diana at Düsseldorf on August 1st. However these dates, indeed the whole fixture list, are only provisional and lots of water will flow down the Rhine before then.

This writer has a very poor record of picking out big race winners months in advance; the last successful ante-post bet was Lando in the 1993 Deutsches Derby. Still, a very tentative suggestion is Martial Eagle for next July´s version. There are several horses with that name, but the one we are thinking of is an Adlerflug colt bred by Gestüt Schlenderhan and in training with Francis-Henri Graffard; that should found familiar as it is exactly the same team responsible for this year´s winner (and Arc runner-up) In Swoop. Martial Eagle made a very promising debut when second on heavy ground at Saint Cloud a month ago. Could lightning strike twice? We shall know for sure in seven months´ time.

This is the last English page for 2020.  We wish all our readers, all friends of Turf Times and indeed the whole racing community, a Very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year! Stay healthy, wear your masks, take the jabs and back plenty of winners!

David Conolly-Smith


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