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The English page - Irish one-two on Irish Race Day at Hoppegarten

Raa Atoll (Jozef Bojko) was a convincing winner in Hoppegarten. www.galoppfoto.de


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 568 vom Freitag, 17.05.2019

The Group Two Oleander-Rennen over two miles, run last Sunday at Berlin´s racecourse Hoppegarten, is Germany´s best staying race and this year attracted three runners from Ireland, appropriately enough as the fixture is promoted as Irish Race Day and the main sponsor is Irish billionaire Luke Comer, who has made a fortune in the construction and property business. He was also the owner-trainer of two of the Irish runners, but they were regarded as rank outsiders while their compatriot, Willie Mullins´ Thomas Hobson (Halling) was the odds-on favourite following several excellent performances in top staying races last year.

But it was Comer who had the last laugh, as his Raa Atoll (Sea The Stars) ran out a most convincing winner under Jozef Bojko at odds of over 32-1. It was Raa Atoll´s first run for Comer and indeed his first run since being tailed off in Newmarket´s Princess of Wales´s Stakes. It is not clear what the reason was for that abysmal performance, but the owners China Horse Club then sent him to the Tattersalls Horses in Training Sale, where Comer picked him up for just 30,000 guineas. As he cost 200,000 guineas as a foal and has an excellent pedigree (his granddam was a Group One winner from the immediate family of Epsom Derby winner High Rise and superstar Dubawi) this was in retrospect a huge bargain. According to our records, this was Luke Comer´s first flat race winner for eight years!

He has certainly got himself a smart racehorse here, as Raa Atoll won in good style, and as he is very lightly raced there is probably more improvement to come. Bojko rode a very positive race and was always close up as longshot Quintarelli (Campanologist) made the running at a steady pace. Raa Atoll went into the lead more than two furlongs out and set sail for home, while Thomas Hobson, who had been almost last for the first twelve furlongs, made smooth progress on the outside and moved into a challenging position at the distance. For a brief moment it seemed that he could get up, but Raa Atoll was not stopping and kept on strongly to score by 1½ lengths. Consistent Moonshiner was the best of the German runners, making up a lot of ground after a very slow start (normal for him) to go third, but was never a threat to the two Irish raiders.

The handicapper has put up Raa Atoll to a GAG of 95 (=international 110) and it must be said that, despite his long odds, this result was clearly no fluke and he was the best horse on the day. His victory gives him a free entry in the Belmont Gold Cup on June 7th and he is likely to take that up. Red Cardinal brought off this double in 2017. Raa Atoll will also apparently be supplemented for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot (13 days later) as he is now also qualified for the Weatherbys Hamilton Million Stayers series. The going was fast at Hoppegarten, conditions which obviously suited Raa Atoll and which are often to be encountered at Royal Ascot. Willie Mullins also intends to run Thomas Hobson at the royal meeting.

This was by far the most important race last weekend in Germany, but mention should also be made of 7yo gelding McQueen (Silver Frost) who won the listed Hoppegarten Spring Cup by ¾ lengths from the favourite Zargun (Rock of Gibraltar). McQueen paid over 20-1 and trainer Yasmin Almenräder explained that there was little between the main German sprinters and they race against each other repeatedly, usually with different results each time. “Form on the day is decisive, and our horse was in top form today,” she said. Runner- up Zargun ran well and his turn will come, but possibly of more interest is the 3yo Irish-bred filly Shafran Mnm (Shamardal), who won a seven furlongs handicap in amazing style, making all the running and going well clear of some seasoned older handicappers to win by six lengths. She was trained last year in Poland, where she won all three of her starts, but is now with Werner Haustein in Bremen. She had arguably been underrated by the handicapper, but on the evidence of this race should be up to winning black type races.

The action now moved West to the Rhine valley, where we have the German 2,000 Guineas at Cologne on Sunday, followed by the 1,000 a week later at Düsseldorf and the following week the Spring Meeting at Baden-Baden. The Mehl-Mülhens-Rennen on Sunday is expected to have eleven starters and rather surprisingly only three of them are trained in Germany. Possibly the best of them is the English-bred Revelstoke (Toronado), an expensive foal purchase who runs in the colours of Australian Bloodstock and is trained by Andreas Wöhler. The others are locally trained Noble Moon (Sea The Moon), who won the Preis des Winterfavoriten over this CD last October but was slightly disappointing when fifth in the Dr. Busch-Memorial on his seasonal debut, and Markus Klug´s Sibelius (Pastorius), fourth in that race.

It is believed to be the first time ever that eight foreign-trained horses run in the same German race, and it is hard to predict which one will come out on top, although it will be a surprise if the supplemented French filly Lady Te (Tertullian), actually German-bred and also part-owned, is placed. The Irish challenger, Fozzy Stack´s Wargrave (Galileo) should be thereabouts, while Tom Dascombe´s Great Scot (Requinto) has the highest rating following his respectable ninth place in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, only beaten about 7 lengths. Mark Johnston, who knows how to win German classics, saddles two runners Arctic Sound (Poet´s Voice) and Maries Diamond (Footstepsinthesand), while Fox Champion (Kodiac) represents Richard Hannon, Global Spectrum (Dutch Art) Gay Kelleway, and Pogo (Zebedee) Charlie Hills. This looks a very open race; it may not be the strongest ever field for this event, but the winner will certainly have to be very useful.

David Conolly-Smith

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