The English page - The German Free Handicap
After the publication last week of the International Classifications, this week the German Generalausgleich (GAG) has been published, listing all horses qualified for handicaps in Germany. The top older horses have been giving the same ratings as in the International Classifications, converted to the German scale. An international rating of 120 (in pounds) is equivalent to a GAG of 100 (in kilos); no German-trained horse reached this mark in 2018, a relatively poor year for German bloodstock, when the classic generation in particular failed to shine. The top German runners in 2018 were Dschingis Secret (Soldier Hollow) and Iquitos (Adlerflug),both older horses and now retired to stud, on 118 (=99 GAG).
Of more interest this week is the classification of last year´s German 2yo´s, the classic generation for the coming season. Germany has four group races for 2yo´s, all in the latter part of the season: the Zukunftsrennen over 7 furlongs at Baden-Baden in early September, the Preis des Winterfavoriten over a mile at Cologne in mid-October, the Preis der Winterkönigin (as the name- “Winter Queen” –suggests, for fillies only) over a mile at Baden-Baden a week later, and the Herzog von Ratibor-Rennen over an extended mile at Krefeld in November. It is clear from these dates and distances that the German system is strongly biased towards late-developing middle distance performers, which is of course the big strength of German breeding. It is quite likely that the horses that ran well in the above races last year will feature strongly in this season´s classics. There are also some listed races and valuable sales races (for horses sold – or at least catalogued- for the BBAG´s three big sales); these races are also mainly, but not all, later in the season and over longer trips. There are very few opportunities in Germany for precocious juveniles running over sprint distances.
The handicappers have clearly and logically taken the view that the four group races define the quality of the 2018 2yo crop, and in particular the Preis des Winterfavoriten. The winner of this race is traditionally the early favourite for the next year´s German Derby, as the name implies, although this rarely works out in practice; Isfahan (Lord of England) is the only horse to have won both races in the last 20 years. However this should in no way belittle the chances of Noble Moon (Sea The Moon) and Django Freeman (Campanologist), who fought out a great finish last October with the former prevailing by a head. They are the top two rated 2yo´s on 95 and 94.5 respectively.
Noble Moon was bred by his owner Eckhard Sauren, also president of the race club at Cologne, where he won both of his starts in 2018, and capped a remarkable year for first season sire Sea The Moon (Sea The Stars), who stands at Newmarket´s Lanwades Stud but was visited by many German mares, not surprisingly in view of the fact that he was one of the best ever winners of the Deutsches Derby (in 2014). Noble Moon is a half-brother to several decent winners, notably Noble Alpha (Shamardal), who was himself third in the Winterfavorit and placed in four more group races; the dam Nouvelle Noblesse (Singspiel) was herself a group race winner at 2. This is a family that has produced prolific winners for many German breeders. He is trained at Cologne by Peter Schiergen, who has by far the best recent record in the German Derby
Django Freeman is a member of the fourth and final crop of Campanologist (Kingmambo), whose early death was a great loss to German breeding. He was bred by Fährhof. but inexplicably was bought in for only 5,000 euros at the BBAG yearling sale. What a bargain he would have been, as he won his first two races (including a lucrative BBAG sales race) before his excellent performance in Cologne. He is now owned by a partnership including Lars Baumgarten and Christoph Holschbach, two prominent younger owners, and is trained by Henk Grewe, who has mapped out the traditional Derby route of Bavarian Classic and Union-Rennen for him. As the other partner is Australian, it is possible that he may end up down under. He is closely related to Group One winner Durban Thunder (Samum).
Quest The Moon, who won the Zukunftsrennen at Baden-Baden, and followed up by running a neck second in the Gran Criterium in Milan, is the third top-rated colt on 93. He was bred by Gestüt Görlsdorf and is out of Questabella (Rock of Gibraltar), a grand-daughter of Meon Valley Stud´s top class Bella Colora. Quest the Moon is owned by Stall Salzburg and trained by Sarah Steinberg in Munich. The German Derby has in recent years been dominated by horses trained in the Cologne area, and no Munich horse has ever won, but this one is certainly no forlorn hope.
Two more 2018 2yo´s are rated 93, both fillies, and in Germany, as elsewhere, it was a good year for fillies and mares; in fact 11 of the top-rated 20 2yo´s are from the so-called fairer sex. Darius Racing´s Donjah (Teofilo) won the Ratibor-Rennen by six lengths, certainly one of the best performances by a German juvenile last year. She beat the colts easily enough and is being aimed at the German Derby, and all being well at the Preis der Diana (Oaks) a month later. Fillies run rarely these days in the Derby and Borgia (Acatenango) in 1997 was the only filly to win the race in the past 60 years. Trainer Henk Grewe has indicated that she will start 2019 by running in two fillies races being taking on the top colts at Hamburg. She certainly looks a great prospect at this stage.
The same goes for Gestüt Park Wiedingen´s homebred Whispering Angel (Soldier Hollow), who won her maiden by ten lengths and then was pitched straight into group company and won the Preis der Winterkönigin, where she scored by half a length from stable companion Gestüt Röttgen´s homebred Akribie (Reliable Man). Both are trained by Markus Klug, who has taken three of the last five editions of the German Derby. As with the others listed above, they seem certain on paper to stay the full classic distance. Whispering Angel is on 93 and Akribie on 92.5.
Those discussed here are the winners of Germany´s top 2yo races in 2018 and as a result they have the highest official ratings. Obviously things can change quite quickly in the next six months, and next week we shall look at some lower-rated performers who still look like major classic prospects for this season. At the moment bookmaker Racebets lists Donjah, Noble Moon and Quest the Moon as 14-1 joint favourites for the 150th IDEE Deutsches Derby, to be run at Hamburg on July 7th, but plenty of water will flow down the Rhine (or possibly the Isar!) before then.