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The English page - Gift horse wins German Oaks

Toskana Belle (l.) wins he German Oaks, Wagnis (r.). www.galoppfoto.de - Stephanie Gruttmann


Daniel Delius


Ausgabe 731 vom Freitag, 12.08.2022

The Group One Preis der Diana (German Oaks) was the big race in Germany last week and the Düsseldorf classic ended with a surprise with the 16-1 shot Toskana Belle (Shamalgan) making all the running to win narrowly for new owner Australian Bloodstock, giving trainer Andreas Wöhler his sixth success in the race. When the ground is riding fast, as it was last Sunday and indeed as it is almost always in this hot and dry summer, front-running tactics often pay off at Düsseldorf and that was certainly the case here. The shrewd trainer had noticed that top Australian jockey Kerrin McEvoy was in action in the Shergar Cup the previous day and had booked him for the ride a couple of weeks ago - even though Toskana Belle was not even in the race at that time. But the filly had worked well and was supplemented for 50,000 euros on Monday.

She went straight into the lead and set a strong pace. Coming into the straight there were still at least half a dozen fillies with a chance, but this was down to three at the distance: Toskana Belle was still going well on the inside rail, Mylady (The Grey Gatsby) was charging up on the outside and Wagnis (Adlerflug) was challenging in the middle. Mylady weakened again close home, and will not be campaigned over longer distances, but Wagnis still looked very dangerous. McEvoy had kept a tiny bet in reserve, and his filly just held on to score by a head, with Mylady three parts of a length back in third. The time of the race was extremely fast and beat the old course record, set in this race last year by Wöhler´s Palmas, by almost a full second. Where Toskana Bellse goes next is not clear. Wöhler considers that 2,000 metres could be her best distance; “the Prix de l´Opera is the only suitable race in Europe, but the owners are also looking at valuable races for filles in the United States.”

Toskana Belle has an interesting, not to say curious, background. She was bred in France by Ecurie Normandie Pur Sang, i.e. Munich bookmaker Simon Springer. Springer´s main claim to fame is as the owner of Dabirsim (Hat Trick), Europe´s champion two-year-old of 2011, when he won all his five starts, including the Prix Morny and the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. Springer had bought Dabirsim at the Arqana summer sale for 30,000 euros, and he is listed in the Racing Post this week as one of the biggest ever bargains at this sale. Dabirsim, who still belongs to Springer, started his stud career in Germany but now stands at Haras de Grandcamp. His fee, 30,000 euros at its peak, is now down to 8,000 euros, but he is still doing well enough as a sire and is currently second in the list of active sires in France.

Dabirsim´s success fueled Springer´s appetite for racing and breeding, and not so long ago he was the owner of almost 50 horses in training, almost all in France, as well as quite a number of broodmares. He also acquired a second stallion Shamalgan  (Footstepsinthesand), whom he bought as a 10-year-old for 135,000 euros. Shamalgam, who also now stands at Haras de Grandcamp, has not done nearly as well as Dabirsim, covering small books at a modest price; Toskana Belle is not only his best product by far, she is also his first group race winner

Springer started cutting down and also moved most of his string to Germany. Last winter he gifted some of them to his longtime sidekick and racing manager Olaf Profft, always known as Olly. Profft, a larger than life (literally) character well known in German racing circles, thus found himself as the owner of an unraced 3yo filly in training with Marian Falk Weissmekier in Mülheim. There was certainly no indication then that she was any good. She started off in France, running fourth in a maiden race at Saint Cloud and then winning a small race at Evreux, a track not usually known for hosting subsequent Group One winners. However Toskana Belle then showed spectacular improvement next time out, winning a listed race at Düsseldorf over a mile and catching the eye of Andreas Wöhler and Australian Bloodstock, always on the lookout for improving fillies.

The deal was done, Toskana Belle was sold to Australian Bloodstock for a reported six figure sum, and after her next start, when she finished third to Wagnis in the Hoppegarten Diana-Trial, was transferred to the Wöhler stable. It was good for Olly Profft, especially as the deal apparently included a clause giving him a substantial bonus should the filly ever win a Group One race, and of course it was an excellent result for the trainer and owners. For Simon Springer there remains the glory of having bred a classic winner sired by his own stallion; as Toskana Belle was foaled in France, he does not even receive the lucrative breeders´ premium.

Toskana Belle has clearly continued to improve as can be seen by the six lengths turnaround with Wagnis, and her rating has been put up to GAG 96 (=international 112). Wagnis was of course unlucky, as she would probably have won in a few more strides and had been disadvantaged by an outside draw, as she had also been in the Derby, and her trainer Markus Klug was left bemoaning his fate after being beaten kin a photo-finish both the German Derby and now the Preis der Diana. However one can take nothing away from the winner, who did it the hard way and in record time to boot. The disappointment of the race was the Aidan O´Brien trained Toy (Galileo), who started favourite but plainly failed to act on this tight track and finished a well-beaten seventh. It is hard to imagine two more contrasting tracks than Düsseldorf and The Curragh.

Attention switches now to Hoppegarten and the two day meeting this weekend at the Berlin track will play a major role in the celebrations around the 200th anniversary of thoroughbred racing in Germany. Main event is the Westminster 132nd Grosser Preis von Berlin on Sunday, which last year saw Alpinista defeat Torquator Tasso, in what was Germany´s best race of the season. There is nothing of that calibre in Sunday´s field, but is still a very interesting race with 8 runners, three of whom were supplemented on Wednesday. They include Charlie Appleby´s Rebel´s Romance (Dubawi), a Godolphin homebred who has won 6 of his 9 starts, four of them on the all-weather, including the UAE Derby. Since returning from Dubai he has run twice on turf, winning both times, a Group Three at Newmarket and another Group Three at Goodwood, both over the required distance of 2400 metres. His official rating of 113 would not normally be enough top woin a Group One, but he looks capable of better and he stays really well, always an advantage at this stiff track.

He faces seven German-trained opponents, four of them three-years´-olds of whom three ran in the German Derby at Hamburg last month.. Assistent (Sea The Moon), also supplemented, Nerik (Ruler of the World) and Ardakan (Reliable Man) finished fourth, fifth and eighth of 20 respectively there, with only about half a length between them, and all three were running on well at the finish and there will probably be little between them again. Ardakan had earlier won the Italian Derby but German form is certainly stronger than Italian and in fact the form of the Hamburg race is already working out well. Possibly Nerik, from the in-form Peter Schiergen stalbe, could come out best of this trio, he seems to be capable of further improvement.

The three older horses are all 4yo´s and all ran in the Group Two Grosser Hansa-Preis at the Derby meeting. Northern Ruler (Ruler of the World), Virginia Storm (Soldier Hollow) and Alter Adler (Adlerflug) finished second, third and fifth there behind Germany´s best horse Torquator Tasso (Adlerflug) All are tough and consistent Group Two performers and Alter Adler actually has the highest rating of all the runners. However this is probably due to his second place in last year´s German Derby, certainly a weaker race than this year´s renewal, and also his victory at the Baden-Baden meeting in May this year. But we suspect that Alter Adler needs cut in the ground to show his best form, and with the hot and dry weather continuing, that seems most unlikely. Rebel´s Romance on the other hand has spent the last two winters in Dubai so hot weather should be no problem. He is far from being the brightest star in the Godolphin galaxy, but he seems to have the right credentials for this race and we take him to score from Nerik, with Northern Ruler perhaps the best of the older horses.

David Conolly-Smith


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