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The English page - End of the road for Neuss

Germanys top-jockeys 2019: Champion Bauyrzhan Murzabayev (right)  Maxim Pecheur. www.galoppfoto.de


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 599 vom Freitag, 20.12.2019

Our remarks in this column last week about problems at Neuss have been overtaken by events, and it now looks as if the fixture there on December 8th will go down in history as the last ever in the 144 years of the racetrack. The Neuss town council, which owns the property, gave the race club (Neusser Reiter- und Rennverein) notice a year ago that their lease would not be renewed at the end of 2019 and have now confirmed this. The whole area was redeveloped by the town ten years ago and named Rennbahn-Park, but racing was almost a minor part of the activities staged there, which include an open air theatre with a highly regarded summer Shakespeare Festival. The race club has cancelled its scheduled meeting for this Sunday, and also its five meetings listed in early 2020. These meetings have all been transferred to Germany´s other sand track used for winter racing at Dortmund, with one exception, when Dortmund is not available for non-racing reasons. The Neuss race club is holding a general meeting of all its members this Friday, which could well become quite heated.

The facilities for racing in Neuss deteriorated following the redevelopment of 2008/9 but improved slightly last season through the introduction of a “Street Food Market”, with food trucks offering a wide selection of food and drink. The old grass track, which has not been used for years, was tight but quite attractive and used to hold a group race for fillies in August which often attracted international runners. The loss of any racecourse is a tragedy, but the future at Neuss has looked very dubious for quite a while. In the opinion of this writer, the sand track at Dortmund is far superior and the facilities there much better. Dortmund, where there is also summer racing on turf, already stages various events on their racecourse during the winter, flea markets and similar, but claim that they are quite capable in handling the additional fixtures, even though this might require a lot of effort in rearranging things; there could however be also a positive synergy resulting from the extra number of visitors expected. The January 12th fixture, with Neuss now out of the picture and Dortmund not available, will now be held on turf at Mülheim; this of course is weather-dependent, but we are promised a mild winter.

Appropriately enough, the (probably) last race to be run at Neuss was won by Latino, ridden by 27-year-old Bauyrzhan Murzabayev, now 99% certain to be German champion jockey this year. He leads his nearest pursuer Maxim Pecheur, 29, by 108 to 98, and Pecheur, who is not planning to ride next week, has already publicly congratulated his rival. Murzabayev, born in Kazakhstan, thoroughly deserves his title. He has ridden consistently well throughout the year and has hugely enriched the German scene; Pecheur has also done extremely well and in terms of prize-money won actually heads the table. A clear indication of the success rate of this pair can be seen by the fact that no German jockey has scored a century of domestic winners since 1997. Murzabayev, who moved to Germany permanently three years ago after three years as Czech champion jockey, is likely to be a major factor for a long time yet and will be first jockey to the powerful Andreas Wöhler stable next year.

Wöhler himself is second in the trainers´ list (by number of winners) and third by prize-money, so can look back on a good year headlined by Laccario´s Derby victory. However the major honours in this department clearly go to another youngster, Henk Grewe, 37, who is leading trainer both by number of races won and by prize-money. It is definitely a positive sign to see the younger generation come to the fore in this way.

The three meetings left this year all have minimal prize-money, so the remaining champions are all already home and hosed. Manfred Ostermann´s Gestüt (Hof) Ittlingen is both leading owner and breeder, mainly due to his homebred Laccario (Scalo), winner of Germany´s richest race. The Baum family´s Gestüt Brümmerhof is runner-up in both divisions, with their homebred Diamanta (Maxios) taking the second most valuable race, the Preis der Diana (Oaks).

The sires´ table is dominated by two oldtimers, Soldier Hollow (In The Wings), champion for the third time, and Areion (Big Shuffle). The former,  owned by Gestüt Park Wiedingen (Helmut von Finck), stands at Gestüt Auenquelle, for a fee now listed as “private”, but was 30,000 euros – easily the highest in Germany - for the past few years. Aerion, who turns 25 shortly, has been a phenomenon; champion sire four times, he now stands at Gestüt Etzean and his fee of 12,500 euros show that his advanced age is in his case no barrier to success. He has had another excellent year, particularly with his two-year-olds.  Another highly successful sire of past years Lomitas (Niniski) is enjoying posthumous glory, as he heads the list of broodmare sires by a huge margin; in Germany Laccario was his biggest winner, but he is also the sire of Salomina, the 2012 Preis der Diana winner. Now in Japan, she is the dam of the unbeaten Salios (Heart´s Cry), easy winner last week of Japan´s top race for juveniles and clear favourite for the 2020 Japanese Derby.

This the last English Page for 2019, so we shall end on that positive note. We wish all readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Successful New Year 2020.

David Conolly-Smith



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