Ausgabe 660 vom Freitag, 19.03.2021
It is very pleasing in these difficult days to report good news, but that is certainly the case following this week´s reports of developments from Baden-Baden and Iffezheim racecourse.The racecourse, by any measure Germany´s top track, lies about eight miles of the resort town of Baden-Baden in the village of Iffezheim, close to the river Rhine and the French border. The racecourse was originally founded by French gamblers in 1858 but the French pulled out after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/71 and the Internationaler Club was started in 1872 to take over the management of the racecourse.
The club was based on the British Jockey Club and was an association of aristocrats, wealthy landowners and breeders, and it ran things, surviving two world wars, until going insolvent in 2010. Baden Racing was then formed to take over. Headed by leading breeders Dr. Andreas Jacobs (Gestüt Fährhof) and Paul von Schubert, whose family owns Gestüt Ebbesloh and also publishes Germany’s racing newspaper Sport-Welt, Baden-Racing reportedly racked up losses of over 6 million euros in the ten years to 2020 before cancelling their lease on the racecourse.
The land on which the racecourse stands belongs to the village of Iffezheim and on Monday this week after weeks of rumours the village council met and confirmed that a new company has been formed, Baden Galopp GmbH & Co. KG, to run the racecourse; it is expected that contracts will be signed this week and that the new company will commence operations on April 1st. The men behind the new group are primarily lawyer Stefan Buchner and builder Peter Gaul, who already have plenty of experience running racecourses as they are respectively president and vice-president of the race club at Mannheim, about an hour down the Rhine from Iffezheim and one of the most go-ahead tracks in Germany. Gaul, together with his wife Gabriele, is also one of the leading local owners.
They are backed up by the sales company BBAG, whose offices and sales ruing are just down the road from the racecourse and local owners Lars Jensen and Hans-Jörg Simon, who are currently financing the renovation of the training gallop. In addition a local supporters´ group has been formed, including Martin Kronimus, whose family company is a long-standing sponsor at Baden-Baden, and ex-mayor Peter Werler. The current mayor Christian Schmid, who has led the negotiations for th0e village, has expressed his delight at the outcome and especially welcomes what he calls the “regional soul” of the new management, as the whole team is from the general area.
Schmid is not releasing details of the fine print of the agreement, but it is known that Baden Racing were paying 200,000 euros p.a. for their lease of the racecourse and the village has made it clear that they were not prepared to reduce this. The race days, which in normal times attract 10,000 to 15,000 paying racegoers every day, is obviously a major factor in the village finances, which applies equally to the nearby town of Baden-Baden. Considerable expenditure will be necessary, but the new group and the supporters´ club have made it clear that they are prepared to put their money where their mouth is. As Peter Gaul, the major shareholder, says “we have a long way to go, but we are aiming very high.”
There is another group who, it seems, might also come aboard. This includes leading players from other equestrian sports such as showjumping and dressage, who would like to use part of the land for tournaments. They are now speaking to the village and to Baden Galopp and it is quite possible that they will later come in as subtenants of Baden Galopp.
These developments have been greeted with joy from all quarters of the German racing community, and Dr. Michael Vesper, president of the racing authority Deutscher Galopp, has publicly stated his total support. This is mixed with a certain amount of relief, as at the beginning of 2021 there was a real possibility that racing at Baden-Baden would cease, which would have been a catastrophe for the whole racing and breeding industry. As it is, it seems almost certain that two other racecourses will close, at Neuss (one of two German sand all-weather tracks), and Bremen. The situation is not exactly the same, but in both cases the racecourse is on land owned by the town and local politicians have other plans which do not include racing. With all due respect for these racecourses, which also date back well into the 19th century, German racing can survive the loss of Neuss and Bremen, but the loss of Baden-Baden would be a body blow from which it could hardly recover.
Baden-Baden´s Spring Meeting, originally scheduled for the first week in June has already been cancelled, but Baden Galopp are confident that the “Grosse Woche”, Germany´s most important race meeting, will go ahead. At the moment they are hoping to stage four days´ racing (instead of the usual six): Sunday, August 29th, Thursday September 2nd, Saturday September 3rd and Sunday September 4th (with the Group One Grosser Preis von Baden). The BBAG Yearling Sale will then place as expected on Friday September 3rd. There will also be a one day fixture on Sunday October 17th, featuring the Preis der Winterkönigin, German´s top trace for 2yo fillies.
Lando vs Monsun
This writer well remembers the 1993 running of the German Derby, still regarded as the best postwar race in this country. The great Heinz Jentzsch had two runners, Lando and Monsun, and they finished first and second in that order. The two contemporaries met several times, but Lando was slightly the better horse and in fact one of the best German horses ever with his victory on the Japan Cup as the highlight. Both also did well as sires, with Monsun in this case clearly the more successful, especially as a sire of N.H. runners and can now fairy be described as the most successful German sire ever.
We have in recent weeks several times referred to the many jumps winners in the U.K., France and Ireland sired by his many sons at stud. However this week the pendulum has swung the óther way, with Lando´s son Sound (known in Europa as Sound Check) one of the most consistent long distance performers in Australasia and placed in many of their top races, including this week in the Group One Auckland Cup, while on Tuesday Honeysuckle (by Sulamaniex First Royal by Lando) was a most impressive winner of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Sons of Monsun have had several runners at the meeting but have so far only hit the crossbar (several times), although last Saturday Langer Dan (by Ocovango) did take the Imperial Cup at Sandown, one of the top handicap hurdles of the season. Tomorrow´s (Friday´s )Trumph Hurdle at Cheltenham however could see jhis luck change, with Fährhof-bred Quilixios (by Maxios) and Tritonic (by Sea The Moon, who was out of a Monsun mare) two of the likelier candidates. Schlenderhan-bred Adagio (Wiener Walzer) looks a dangerous rival in what is normally the best race of the year for 4yo hurdlers. We shall look back next week at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, which has already seen several extremely impressive winners.