Ausgabe 617 vom Freitag, 08.05.2020
„Equal goes it loose“ was the phrase which German president Heinrich Lübcke – according to legend- uttered to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her state visit to Germany in 1965. What he meant to say was: “It is about to start now”. And that is the situation in which we now find ourselves. As your correspondent pens these lines, it is only a few minutes before racing starts at Hanover, the first race meeting on German soil since the coronavirus lockdown came into effect in March. In fact the first racing in any major European country, as France is due to resume on Monday and there are still no definite dates for the U.K. and Ireland. Indeed the Irish government has suggested that racing will only be allowed again at the end of June, which would be a disaster for the Irish racing industry, although it seems possible that June 8th could also see a resumption of racing there, while the U.K. is hoping for a late May start.
Hanover has an extremely strong card today, with twelve races in all including three listed events, all with fields almost worthy of group race status, despite the poor prize-money, 50% of the usual level, and also well-contested three-year-old maidens. All Germany´s top jockeys are riding and all the leading trainers have starters. Everybody is raring to go after the long and unwelcome break, but the fixture will of course take place behind closed doors and under strict conditions regarding social distancing and hygiene. Hanover today (Thursday - click full results) will be followed by Cologne tomorrow (Friday - click race cards) with two group races, Mülheim on Saturday (instead of Munich, where the local authorities refused to allow the meeting to go ahead) and Hoppegarten on Sunday (click race cards). There is huge media interest, as these will be the first sporting events to take place in Germany since the start of the crisis. Professional football (Bundesliga) is due to begin again on the Friday of next week, but all “major events” up to the end of August are to be held without spectators and behind closed doors.
A great deal will depend on the success of the Hanover, Cologne and Hoppegarten meetings. If they go well, as we devoutly hope and expect, this will give the green light for racing in the coming weeks. A provisional revised fixture list has been published, and several meetings will now take place weeks later than originally scheduled, including almost all the classics and almost certainly the top meetings at Hamburg and Baden-Baden.
Foreign interest in these races will also be high. The French betting giant PMU is taking all German races this week, and although most cafes and bars remain shut in France, their turnover – mainly now online – will give an indication of what to expect, and will also of course be a boost to the race clubs involved, who are expected to receive a 3% commission. To a certain extent the relevant race club´s finances have also been boosted by the success of the “Wetten, dass” competition described here last week. No fewer than 118 persons (including several groups of friends and syndicates) have committed themselves to staking at least 50 euros to win on every race run in Germany up to mid-June. In other words, each of these races will start off with 5,800 euros (or more) in the win pool, which should assure a solid betting market, and of course to a certain extent compensate for the loss of income from gate and sponsorship money.
It is still going to be a very tough time for most of the stakeholders in the racing industry, owners especially, but also trainers and jockeys, who have been earning nothing at all for the past two months. It has already been reported that the number of horses in training has dropped by about 20% in the U.K. and Ireland. By no means all owners are rich, and many simply cannot afford to keep paying for the upkeep of horses who are not even allowed to run at the moment. At least British racing will benefit from 1.68 million GBP from the European Breeders Fund, but in many other cases prize-money will be well below normal recent levels, and as we have seen from the huge entries for this week´s German racing, and also for the first day´s French racing at Longchamp on Monday, we can expect large fields and very competitive racing for the next few weeks. Germany also receives some money from the EBF, and there is also good news from the sales company BBAG, whose series of lucrative sales races throughout the summer and autumn will continue with the usual high level of prize-money, most of which has of course been paid in advance by the consignors at their sales.
In the meantime I see that the first listed race this afternoon from Hanover was won by the second favourite, the Irish-bred Majestic Colt (Clodovil), owned and bred by Jaber Abdullah, trained by Andreas Wöhler and ridden by current German champion jockey Bauyrzhan Murzabayev, who brought the five-year-old with a well-timed late run to lead inside the final furlong and score by a neck. Full details of this, and the remainder of the Hanover races, can be found elsewhere in this issue.
Looking now at tomorrows Cologne card, where the main event is the Group Two Carl Jaspers-Preis (ex-Gerling-Preis) over 2400 metres. This looks very open, with a strong field and last year´s classic form represented by German Derby third Accon (Camelot) and Preis der Diana runner-up Naida (Reliable Man). Also in the line-up are last season´s second and third in this race, the six-year-olds Be My Sheriff (Lawman) and Windstoss (Shirocco), the 2017 German Derby winner. Any of this quartet could win, as could Ashrun (Authorized) from today's winning Wöhler-Murzabayev team, who finished a close third in last November's Group One Grosser Preis von Bayern.
Main supporting feature is the Group Three pferdewetten.de Cologne Classic, normally run at Munich as the Bavarian Classic. This is potentially the most interesting race of the week, as it is an important Derby trial, and seven of the nine runners are entered in the Deutsches Derby, now due to be to be run on July 12th, including the ante-post favourite Wonderful Moon (Sea The Moon), who seems certain to start a warm favourite here. He was Germany´s top-rated 2yo last year when he was narrowly beaten in the Preis des Winterfavoriten here and then went on to win the important Herzog von Ratibor-Rennen by 12 lengths. His trainer Henk Grewe won this race last year at Munich with Django Freeman (Campanologist), later runner-up in the Derby itself, while Andreas Wöhler saddled the four previous winners and is now represented by French-bred Soul Train (Manduro), who was unfortunately never entered in the Derby, but must have a good chance tomorrow. The last two winners of this were both placed in the Derby, while two of the previous five winners won at Hamburg, so the winner this time will clearly be regarded as a major prospect for the big race itself.
Hoppegarten on Sunday also has a group race on the card, the Dr. Busch-Memorial, normally run at Krefeld in late April. This is another classic trial, but more for the Mehl-Mülhens-Rennen, as the race is over seven furlongs. This time there is a surprisingly small field with only seven runners. Hot favourite is Rubaiyat (Areion), who was unbeaten in four starts last year, including the Preis des Winterfavoriten and Milan´s Gran Criterium, and who is currently also clear favourite for the German 2,000 Guineas. A possible danger could be Fearless King (Kingman), who makes the long journey from Munich and is highly regarded.