Ausgabe 667 vom Freitag, 07.05.2021
This German racing proverb means literally “fitness beats class” and implies that in the early weeks of the season, horses with current form can often defeat higher-rated horses coming off a break since last season. This applies particularly to the early classic trials, as we saw last weekend in Germany when the two most important races, both classic trials, were won by horses that had already had a run this season, and they defeated several fancied horses from the big stable who were making their seasonal debut. Of course, it is quite possible that they won because they were the best horses in the race, but time will tell, and this writer would not be at all surprised to see the form overturned in high summer.
The Bavarian Classic over 2,000 metres at Munich on Saturday, has always been the best early season trial for the German Derby (to be run at Hamburg on July 4th) and all seven runners have an entry in that race. Sea of Sands (Sea The Stars) had the best 2yo form and was clear favourite, but the race was not run to his liking. He was in front from very early, and with nobody willing to set a proper pace, he stayed there for the first seven furlongs, setting a very steady pace. In the straight Lambo (Protectionist) came with a sudden rush to take the lead two out and quickly went clear. He was never in any danger from then on, although second favourite Virginia Storm (Soldier Hollow) kept on well to go second, with Sea of Sands just keeping third place, two lengths back. Lambo, who had been supplemented for the race, had very easily won a maiden race at Fontainebleau, but that form hardly looked good enough in this grade; however the fitness advantage was clearly a plus point and he won more easily than the official winning distance of 1 ¼ lengths might suggest. He was obviously the best horse on the day, but whether the form holds up remains to be seen. Lambo was a first group race winner for his sire, Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist, who stands at Röttgen for a very reasonable 6,500 euros, and looks to be a sire with a big future. According to trainer Mirek Rulec, who moved his string across the Rhine from Iffezheim to Strasbourg early in the year, Lambo will run once more before Hamburg, probably in the Prix Hocquart at Longchamp on May 24th. He is clearly smart, but this writer would not be surprised to see Virginia Storm and/or Sea of Sands overtake him by Derby Day.
It may well turn out that the 3yo maiden over the same distance, run two hours earlier, was the better race, as not lonely was it run more than two seconds faster than the group race, it had an exciting finish fought out by two horses who are not only in the Derby but also live outsiders for that classic. The winner Imi (Tertullian), now trained by Peter Schiergen, just held on by a head from local hope Mendocino (Adlerflug), trained by Sarah Steinberg. Imi had been a real problem horse last year and was for a time banned from racing because he twice refused to go into the starting stalls. Those problems sems to have been ironed out, but he still ran very keenly for the first mile. Mendocino came with a promising challenge and had his head briefly in front, but Imi fought back gamely to lead again in the final strides. Imi is not really bred to stay, but Schiergen commented: “but he runs like a stayer!” They finished well clear of the others and both should be followed.
The other classic trial at the weekend was run at Cologne over a mile and contested by 3yo fillies, i.e. a prep race for the German 1,000 Guineas. Noble Heidi (Intello), having won the prestigious Preis der Winterkönigin last October,was the clear favourite here, but she only managed to finish fifth, beaten about 3 lengths. Markus Klug, who trains at Röttgen on the outskirts of the city, had a highly successful day, saddling five winners. In the feature he had three runners, all relative longshots, but still collected the lion´s share of the prize-money, with Belcarra (Estidhkaar) scoring by half a length and Marlar (Kallisto) not far back in third after not getting much of a run. The winner is by a relatively unknown first season sire who stands at the Tara Stud in Ireland and was bought for 14,500 guineas at the Tattersalls Craven Breeze-up. She had already had a race this season, when unplaced in a Deauville Group Three. She traces back to a well-established Schlenderhan family, very appropriate since the race title (Schwarzgold-Rennen) refers tpo one of the best ever Schlenderhan fillies, whose influence is still very much alive today. It is hard to know what to make of this race, but it seems certain that Noble Heidi (not at 100%, according to her trainer) will almost certainly show great improvement next time.
My esteemed colleague, the official German handicapper, was not especially impressed by these two races and has given the winners low ratings: Lambo GAG 92 (=international 104) and Belcarra 91 ½ (103). They will have to show considerably improvement if they are to have reasonable chances in the classic races for which they are being aimed, but that of course is quite possible. However it seems even more possible that some of those that finished behind them last weekend will improve even more.
There are not likely to be many classic clues to be found this weekend, although there are several runners entered who are also in the German Derby or the two Guineas races. Main event on Saturday at Düsseldorf is indeed another race for 3yo fillies, a listed event run over the course and distance of the German 1,000 Guineas at the end of this month; eight of the ten runners are entered in that race. On last season´s form the Brümmerhof-homebred Novemba (Gleneagles) should be the one to beat, but as she has not run since her second place to Noble Heidi in October (see above) it is quite possible that some of her opponents who have already shown decent form in 2021 could have a fitness advantage.
Of more interest is Sunday´s Group Two Oleander-Rennen over two miles at Hoppegarten, Germany´s top staying race. Last year, because of the changes in the programme resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, it was run in November, but is now back to its usual date and is the centerpiece of “Irish Race Day” at the Berlin track. The race is sponsored by Comer International, whose European HQ is in Berlin, and Luke Comer himself, who won the race with Raa Atoll in 2019, will be trying again to win back his own money. He saddles Aircraft Carrier (Declaration of War) and Questionare (Galileo), who both ran here last time, finishing third and seventh respectively. In fact the first five from the November edition cross swords again, and 2020 winner Quian (Mastercraftsman), certainly Germany´s best current stayer, is clearly the one to beat.