The English page - International Classifications
The International Classifications were published this week, and on the whole they make depressing reading, both from a general point of view and also from a German perspective. The idea that thoroughbred performance, as measured by these ratings, is continually improving is certainly disproved. The ratings on the whole are the lowest for many years and this is particularly true of the world´s three-year-olds in 2019. Classic form in almost all major racing countries was relatively poor in relation to previous years.
This was certainly also true of Germany. The two Guineas races here were won by British-trained three-year-olds who did little to boost the form afterwards. The Derby was won in good style by Laccario (Scalo), an Ittlingen homebred who looked very promising in the first half of 2019, but failed to win in his two later starts, while the Preis der Diana was won by Brümmerhof´s Diamanta (Maxios), who did not run again and the form as whole also failed to work out. Ironically, both Scalo and Maxios have since moved to jumping establishments and are now covering N.H. mares. The other five German Group Ones all went to foreign-trained runners, three of them from the U.K. and one each from France and Hungary.
It is therefore clear that German-trained horses only play a minor role in the classifications, which are headed by three horses jointly rated on 128 (= GAG 104), all of them five-year-olds, in itself a negative feature. They are the filly Enable (Nathaniel), trained in Newmarket by John Gosden., as well as Crystal Ocean, also trained in Newmarket (Michael Stoute) and Waldgeist (Galileo), trained in Chantilly by André Fabre. From the German point of view that is good news as Waldgeist, although bred in England and by an Irish-based stallion, has a strong German element in his pedigree, being out of a Monsun mare from the Ravensberg “W” family and he is also German-owned. Indeed Dietrich von Boetticher, whose Gestüt Ammerland owns 75%, and Andreas Jacobs (25%), whose family-owned Newsells Park bred him, were present in London for the presentation. Both Crystal Ocean and Waldgeist have been retired, but Enable stays in training at six to try and win the “Arc” for the third time; if she succeeds it will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest feats ever.
Obviously German-trained runners are not very prominent, the highest-rated German horse being Laccario on 115. But the three-year-olds worldwide were generally a relatively poor lot, there being none at all in the top ten. The highest-rated was Sottsass, winner of the Prix du Jockey Club and also third behind Waldgeist and Enable in the “Arc”. Especially notable are the poor ratings given to the other Derby winners, Anthony Van Dyck, who won at Epsom, and Country House, the Kentucky winner (on the disqualification of Maximum Security), both on 118, the lowest rating for winners of these prestigious classics for over a decade.
Godolphin, making a habit of winning Germany´s top races, took the Grosser Preis von Baden with Ghaiyyath (Dubawi) who scored in spectacular style, which was enough to give him a rating of 126, joint fifth–highest with Breeders´Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso, sprint star Battaash and Japanese champion Lys Gracieux. Just above them is Hong Kong star miler, the NZ-bred Beauty Generation (although he has recently performed well below that level). The horses on 125 include Benbatl, inner of Munich´s Dallmayr-Preis in 2018, and Australian superstar Winx. French King, trained by Henri-Alex Pantall to win three races last year in Germany, is on 118.
From the German point of view, the most positive feature of these rankings is the fact that three German-trained juveniles make it in to the list of top two-year-olds. Only 40 were adjudged to have met the necessary rating of 110 (=GAG 95), and there have been years when no German two-year-old figured in this category. The three are Wonderful Moon (Sea The Moon) and Rubaiyat (Areion), both on 112, while Alson (Areion), who has since been transferred to André Fabre in France, is on 111. This may seem a low rating for a colt that won a Group One race by 20 lengths, but that Longchamp race was rather a non-event, as only one other horse ran, Armory, who is officially rated 110 but clearly ran well below form that day. Wonderful Moon and Rubaiyat are both trained in Cologne by Henk Grewe, who was champion trainer in Germany for the first time in 2019 and clearly holds a strong hand for 2020 as well.
The outstanding two-year-old of 2019 was clearly Godolphin´s Pinatubo (Shamardal), unbeaten in six races and rewarded with a rating of 128, the highest for this age category since Arazi and Celtic Swing a quarter of a century ago. He is hot favourite for Newmarket´s Two Thousand Guineas. According to early betting on this season´s German classics, Wonderful Moon and Rubaiyat are joint-favourites for the Deutsches Derby in early July while this pair plus Alson are the favourites for the Mehl-Mülhens-Rennen in mid-May, which presumably will also depend on what plans Fabre makes for the Schlenderhan-bred Alson. The three German horses mentioned here were all above-average performers in 2019 and must be regarded as major classic prospects for this season.
At the same time as these ratings are published, so is the list of the world´s best 100 races, also sponsored by Longines and based on the average rating of the first four to finish. The Prix de l´Arc de Triomphe was rated the best race for the fourth time in the last five years, and that is fully justified. So was the second place for Ascot´s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, in which the three best horses in the world all ran, Enable narrowly defeating Crystal Ocean with Waldgeist staying on strongly for a close third. The two best German races were the Grosser Preis von Berlin, won by French King, in joint 89th place and the Grosser Preis von Baden, won by Ghayyaith, in joint 96th place. Incidentally, both those winners also ran in the “Arc” but were well beaten, possibly also because of the change in the going; the ground had been good to firm all over Europe from May to September after another long, dry and hot summer, but had changed completely by the time the “Arc” was run in early October and it was very soft that day. That certainly did not suit the two big race winners from Germany, nor Enable for that matter, and we must hope for more moderate weather conditions in 2020.