Ausgabe 689 vom Freitag, 08.10.2021
Obviously the two Group Three races in Germany last Sunday pale into insignificance compared to the events in Paris, and the victory of Gestüt Auenquelle´s Torquator Tasso (Adlerflug) in the Prix de l´Arc de Triomphe is not only the best news of the year for German racing and breeding but also a huge boost to German form. On his previous start he had won the Grosser Preis von Baden comfortably defeating the 2021 German Derby winner Sisfahan (Isfahan), with the Godolphin runner Passion and Glory (Cape Cross) third and Kaspar (Pivotal) fourth; previously he had been runner-up to Kirsten Rausing´s Alpinista (Frankel) in the Grosser Preis von Berlin, with Walton Street (Cape Cross) third. This form looks even better now, even without the Arc, as Alpinista followed up in the Preis von Europa, while Walton Street has since won the Canadian International very easily.
And then we have the 2020 edition of the German Derby. We all knew at the time that it was a good race, but how well it has turned out could hardly have been foreseen. Schlenderhan´s homebred In Swoop (Adlerflug) was a narrow winner there and went on to finish runner-up to Sottsass in the Arc. Even though that was probably one of the weaker runnings of the Arc, that was still a smart performance; In Swoop is now retired following a tendon injury, otherwise he no doubt would also have been running on Sunday. Third past the post in Hamburg last year was Dr. Christoph Berglar's Grocer Jack (Oasis Dream), winner last Sunday of the Preis der Deutschen Einheit at Hoppegarten, of which more below. Grocer Jack was however disqualified from third place in the Derby after failing a dope test as a result of contaminated feed, and Kaspar was moved up to third. Kaspar, who was sold at the Arqana Arc sale last week, has since been placed in several Group One races as well as winning the Group Two in Mülheim this June. in which Torquator Tasso made his seasonal debut (the only occasion on which he ran badly).
So, how good is Torquator Tasso really? This was his third Group One success and by far his best ever performance. He left the winners of the English and Irish Derby, the English and Irish Oaks, the St. Leger, The King George and the Breeders´ Cup turf trailing in his wake. Ridden to Perfection by Rene Piechulek, he made strong late progress on the outside and was going best of all in the straight; he could be called the winner a furlong out, although there were still two horses in front of him. Although the winning margin was officially only 3/4 of a length, he appeared to win with a great deal in hand; he was ridden out with hands and heels and so strongly was he running on that 100 yards past the winning post he was several lengths clear of the opposition. He went into the race with a rating of 119, and it seems that this will be raised to 125, making him the best German-trained horse since Sea The Moon in 2014.
Clearly the heavy rain that had fallen in Paris the previous night and on the morning of the race played a role. Not so much that he needs heavy ground – trainer Marcel Weiss considers that he acts on any going, although it is self-evident that he goes well on the heavy, but also because it helps slow down the others. It was obvious on Sunday that the Japanese runners in particular were at a disadvantage, probably also Epsom winner Adayar. Dermot Weld, trainer of the runner-up Tarnawa, claimed afterwards that his filly would have won had it not rained so much. This of course is impossible to confirm. But it is certainly true that both Tarnawa and third-placed Hurricane Lane had proven form on very soft going. Basically Torquator Tasso won the race fair and square and was the best horse on the day. Connections have already announced that he will not run again in 2021, stays in training as a 5yo in 2022 with a late start to the season and a return to the Arc as his main target.
He will presumably than be retired to stud and commence stallion duties at Auenquelle in 2023. This makes sense, as Auenquelle´s current stallion Soldier Hollow, easily German´s best and also most expensive sire for the past decade, will then be 23 and he is reportedly now only covering limited books. He is by In the Wings (Sadler´s Wells), while Torquator Tasso is a son of Adlerflug, also by In The Wings. If all goes well, Torquator Tasso could be the natural heir to Adlerflug, whose siudden death at Easter this year has orved to be a huge loss for the German breeding industry. This writer well remembers Adlerflug winning the German Derby in 2007 on very soft ground. It is of course not true that all German-breds need soft or heavy ground to show their best form, but certainly a high proportion of them act well with plenty of cut in the ground. More to the point is the fact that they are usually bred to stay twelve furlongs and also as a rec that they are very sound horses who usually improve with age. They are often at their best at five (remember Star Appeal and Waldgeist), so we now have the intriguing prospect of Torquator Tasso crossing swords again with Kirsten Rausing s Alpinista, as the Hoppegarten winner is reportedly also going to be aimed at the Arc in 2022.
Torquator Tasso was bred by retired Dutch butcher Paul Vanverberg, who names his horses after the village of Hilleshage, where he lives. So when the subsequent Arc winner came to the 2018 BBAG October Sale he was named Tijuan Hilleshage. He was bought there by Auenquelle for 24,000 euros, in retrospect a huge bargain. Despite the Dutch connection, his pedigree is German, in fact it is Schlenderhan on both sides. He is inbred 5x4 to the Schlenderhan mare Anatevka (Espresso) who bred several top performers, notably Allegretta (Lombard), who herself became dam of Arc winner Urban Sea, later of course even more famous as the dam of top racehorses and supersires Galileo and Sea The Stars. This family can claim with some justification to be the most successful in recent European history and another Arc winner only adds further lustre.
As mentioned ablove, Grocer Jack won the top race in Germany last weekend, the Group Three Preis der Deutschen Einheit at Hoppegarten, commemorating German reunification in 1990. This was yet more confirmation of last year´s German Derby form. Grocer Jack's arguably Germany s best perfomer over this trip of 2,000 metres but he had to fight here to get the better of local hope and strong front-runner Stex (Lord of England), the pair finishing well clear. Grocer Jack, a Dr. Christoph Berglar homebred, is due to be sold at Tattersalls Horses in Training Sale later this year.
The other group race last Sunday was the Group Three Grosser Preis der Landeshauptstadt Düsseldorf over an extended mile. Wew have seen repeatedly this season that Düsseldorf is a track that favours front-runners, and here it was Gestüt Brümmerhof´s homebred Marshmallow (Soldier Hollow) who made every inch of the running and won easily enough from the favourite Liberty London (Maxios). Marshmallow, a 4yo filly, is very consistent; this was her sixth win from 12 career starts, and she thoroughly deserved this first group race success.
This weekend´s big race is the Preis des Winterfavoriten, a Group Three race for 2yo´s over a mile at Cologne and often enough the top juvenile race of the year in Germany. Markus Klug has his 2yo´s in flying form and saddles four of the nine runners. Antero (Manduro) was very impressive when winning last time at Düsseldorf and could well be the his main hope, but stable companion Ariolo (Reliable Man) was just touched off last time and could be a big danger; it looks very open and we shall know more next week.