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The English page - Derby jigsaw puzzle not quite completed yet

Best of Lips, winning the Union-Rennen, now favourite for the German Derby. www.galoppfoto.de - Sandra Scherning


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 673 vom Freitag, 18.06.2021

Cologne´s Union-Rennen, the oldest race in the German calendar and dating back to 1834, is run exactly three weeks before the German Derby and is always regarded as the most reliable trial for the Hamburg classic. This was true in the pre-war days, when it was run in Berlin, but is equally true of the modern period; the race moved to Cologne in 1947 after the division of Germany. In recent times it has been won by many top level performers, including three winners of the German Derby in the past seven years. In both 2018 and 2019 the winner and the runner-up went on to fill the same two spots in the Derby. So this year´s winner Stall Lintec´s homebred Best of Lips (The Gurkha) has a lot to live up to.

He was a very easy winner on Sunday, coming with a strong run from two out to go clear in the final furlong and score by 4 ¾ lengths from Dolcetto (Gleneagles) and Sky Out (Adlerflug), who had made most of the running. The pace did not appear to be too strong., but in fact the final time was very good, the fourth fastest this century. Two of the fastest times were set by Novellist (2012) and Ivanhowe (2013), neither of whom won the Derby but were still two of the best German horses of this century, later winning major international races. Best of Lips was undeniably impressive and has received a German GAG rating of 96 (= international 112) and has also been promoted to clear favourite for the Derby at odds of around 2-1.

Let us not forget that Best of Lips was the top-rated German juvenile last season, winning the Preis des Winterfavoriten (and has confirmed the name of that race) and has also confirmed that form this season, winning the Dr. Busch Memorial and then running on well when third in the German 2,000 Guineas, which increased his connections´ confidence that he would stay the Derby trip. So – what´s not to like? Nevertheless, some doubts remain. Firstly, the fast time was certainly due in part to the very fast going. Second, the field for the Union-Rennen did not appear to be as strong as usual, especially after two fancied rivals were late withdrawals because of the going. Third, his pedigree still does not completely convince us that he will stay the trip at Hamburg. 2400 metres there is much tougher than 2200 metres at Cologne and stamina is an extremely important part of a Derby winner´s qualities. He was certainly not stopping at Cologne, but Hamburg is a different kettle of fish and the Derby is usually run at a furious pace, any stamina weakness will be ruthlessly exposed.

Best of Lips is a member of the first crop on the young Coolmore stallion The Gurkha, who has a typical Coolmore pedigree, being by Galileo out of a mare by Danehill Dancer, i.e. plenty of Northern Dancer. The Gurkha was an outstanding miler and an impressive winner of the Sussex Stakes in 2016. It is of course too early to assess the stamina prospects of his progeny, but it seems likely that many of them will take after their sire in this respect. There are certainly stout elements in the bottom line. Best of Lips represents a well-established Wildenstein family, and his dam Beata was in fact bought for 88,000 euros at the Wildenstein dispersal at Goffs in 2016. She is a daughter of Silver Frost (Verglas), also a top miler, who ended his stud career in Hungary, where he died only a few days ago. Beate was a half-sister to seven winners, including Bright Sky (Wolfhound), who won the Prix de Diane. They were out of Bright Moon (Alysheba), who could certainly stay well; she won the Prix de Pomone twice and was also placed in the Prix Vermeille and Grand Prix de Deauville. None of this is of course conclusive, but we just suspect that 2400 metres could be a step too far; we would be delighted for owner Hans-Dieter Lindemeyer and trainer Andreas Suborics if we are proved wrong.

Looking forward now to this weekend and classic trials are again the main features. On Saturday we have a listed trial for the Preis der Diana at Düsseldorf, run over the same track but over 100 metres longer in August. Eleven have been declared, including a French raider Rumble of Thunder (Night of Thunder). Trained by Jerome Reynier and to be ridden by Mickaelle Michel, she won her only start so far, a relatively modest affair at Compiegne a fortnight ago. She is owned by bloodstock agent Matt Coleman and could be anything, but this of course is a much stronger race. She is likely to start favourite, and the most dangerous locals could be Elegie (Adlerflug), (Waldemar Hickst/ Alex Pietsch) and Palmas (Lord of England) (Andreas Wöhler/ Eduardo Pedroza), both of whom are on our short list for the Preis der Diana. Two of the best German 3yo fillies are also entered in the Prix de Diane (the real thing!) at Chantilly this Sunday: Waldemar Hickst´s Amazing Grace (Protectionist) and Henk Grewe´s Noble Heidi (Intello), the first two home in the Hoppegarten Diana Trial. A top three finish on Sunday would certainly boost their prospects for the German version.

That race however is still six weeks away, and of more immediate interest is the listed Grosser Preis der Baum Unternehmensgruppe over 2200 metres at Hanover on Sunday, a last ditch German Derby trial just a fortnight before the big race itself. 14 are declared and 13 are also in the Derby; the sole exception is Waldemar Hickst´s Kings of Leon (Morandi). Should that one run well enough to qualify for the Derby, then connections hope to supplement him and are looking for a sponsor to finance that.

We write that he needs to qualify; this is true of almost all of them here. A maximum field of 20 is looking more and more likely for Hamburg, and they will be rated in GAG (German handicap rating) order; the horses with the lowest ratings will be eliminated, so it will be necessary to put up a good performance here. The handicapper has published his ratings for the Derby entries, and In fact only two of the runners at Hanover are guaranteed a place in the Derby line-up so far: local hope Santorini (Siyouni) and Sampras (Iffraaj). These are therefore the ones to beat, on ratings anyway, but there is a lot to play for as far as the other runners are concerned. Sampras, one of the late withdrawals at Cologne last week, is one of four entries trained by Markus Klug; two of them are owned by Holger Renz, who has two more entered from different stables. His best chance would appear to be Peter Schiergen´s Imi (Tertullian), but this looks race wide open and Imi is one of several contestants who are moving up in class and hoping to secure a place in the field at Hamburg. This time next week we shall know much more, and in all probability the likely field. 

David Conolly-Smith

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