Ausgabe 587 vom Freitag, 27.09.2019
There were high hopes for last Sunday´s Group One Preis von Europa at Cologne, which promised to be one of the defining races of the German season. Unfortunately it did not work out that way, and the fireworks we were hoping for did not materialize; the event was a bit of a damp squib. It started with the sudden and unexpected decision of Manfred Ostermann to withdraw his Deutsches Derby winner Laccario because of his misgivings about the ground, especially as another horse owned by him had pulled up lame in an earlier race.
This obviously caused consternation at the racecourse, especially as his decision was known only about 45 minutes before the race, but it is an owner´s prerogative to decide where to run his horses and although it must be said that the ground was no worse than at Hamburg when Laccario won the Derby nor at Baden-Baden where he finished third in the Grosser Preis, it was certainly far from perfect. Officially it was “good” but it was firm underneath and loose and patchy on top. Long hot and dry spells have been a big problem for German racecourses in recent years and this will no doubt continue to be the case, as the change in Europe´s climate is now undeniable.
The appeal of the race was considerably lessened, as the prospect of seeing our best three-year-old colt and our arguably best three-year-old filly in action against some of Germany´s best older horses and three strong contenders from the U.K. was certainly most attractive. There is also the fact that the rating of the race has suffered as a result, although it is of course impossible to say where Laccario would have finished. The Preis von Europa was for many years one of the best races in Europe, as was the original intention, but it has recently become just another average group race, and the prize money is well below what it was 30 years ago. This is not meant as a criticism of Cologne, but as a reflection of the problems facing German racing in general. It is a fact that the Group One status of the Preis von Europa is regarded as endangered and will quite possibly be lost.
This should in no way detract from the performance of the winner Aspetar (Al Kazeem), trained by Roger Charlton and well ridden by young Jason Watson. He was clearly the best horse on the day and won with authority, he was certainly value for at least the winning distance of 2 ½ lengths. The story of the race, which was run in record time, is soon told. Laccario´s trainer Andreas Wöhler had another runner in the field, and his Royal Youmzain (Youmzain) made the running at a good pace. The filly Donjah (Teofilo), who started favourite after her excellent second place in the Grosser Preis von Baden, was always close up, while Watson had Aspetar well placed on the inside. Royal Youmzain led into the straight, but then suddenly weakened (it transpired that he had torn off a shoe) and Donjah went on, looking for a moment like the winner. However Aspetar could be seen sitting on her tail and it was soon clear that he was going much better. He took the lead at the distance and quickly put the race to bed. The other filly in the field, Amorella (Nathaniel) finished well from the rear to take second place from Donjah close home, while Colomano (Cacique), who had been last for most of the way, ran on to take fourth place with the rest a long way back.
The two other British runners were most disappointing. Godolphin´s Best Solution (Kodiac), who had won two German Group Ones and the Caulfield Cup in 2018, is currently nowhere near that level of form, while Communiqué once again ran well below expectations and finished second last, just behind the 2018 German Derby winner Weltstar (Soldier Hollow), another one who has yet to recapture his old form. Colomano ran a solid race; he is a most consistent performer, but has repeatedly shown that he is not up to Group One class. Amorella, who had shown improved form to win a Baden-Baden Group Two last time, improved again and ran her best ever race, and Donjah ran a decent race in third and was possibly ridden too positively. Royal Youmzain is excused and will probably run next in the Gran Premio del Jockey Club in Milan, while Wöhler says that Laccario will, all being well, be supplemented for next week´s Preis der Deutschen Einheit in Hoppegarten.
However the race was really all about the winner Aspetar, who had won the Grand Prix de Chantilly earlier in the year as well as finishing fourth in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. This was his best ever performance and the handicapper has put him up three pounds to GAG 98 (=international 116). It is not yet clear where he will go next, but a return to Germany and the Grosser Preis von Bayern in early November is a possibility. His main target is said to be H.H. The Amir´s Trophy in Doha, the home country of his owner, a member of the Qatari royal family. Aspetar is by far the best product so far by Al Kazeem, a top class racehorse who was also trained by Charlton. He retired to stud in 2014, so Aspetar is a member of that very small first crop – so small in fact that Al Kazeem was reported to be “subfertile” , was taken back into training, and skillfully brought back to top form by Charlton, winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup in 2015 at the age of seven, before an injury picked up in that race brought about his final retirement and a renewed career at stud.
Two other races on that day in Cologne are worth a mention. The listed race for fillies ended in a four-way photo finish, with Gestüt Höny-Hof´s homebred Wish You Well (Soldier Hollow) just pipping her stable companion, the Schlenderhan homebred Mythica (Adlerflug), a great result for trainer Jean-Pierre Carvalho. And the opening two-year-old maiden was won by another homebred, Dr. Christoph Berglar´s Grocer Jack (Oasis Dream) named after a song in a 1967 “teenage opera”, who made all the running in first time blinkers. This race has the reputation of being the best maiden of the year, and the last three winners all went on to win the prestigious Preis des Winterfavoriten next time out, while it was also the race that started off the career of Sea The Moon (Sea The Stars), the best German Derby winner of recent years.
This coming weekend we have four more black type races, two each at Düsseldorf and Hanover, but, to be honest, none of them look very exciting. The two at Hanover are listed races for fillies and mares, which can always be relied upon to get large fields, but it is a case of quantity rather than quality. The French-trained runners look dangerous here, while British trainer Hughie Morrison can celebrate a double at Düsseldorf, with Bella Ragazza (Dutch Art) in the Group Three and Romsey (Mukhadram) in the Winterkönigin-Trial for 2yo fillies.