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The English page - Light at the end of the tunnel?

The Gerhard Schöningh-bred Best of Days. www.galoppfoto.de - JJ Clark


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 612 vom Freitag, 03.04.2020

The coronavirus crisis continues to affect us all and in all our activities, including sport in general and horse racing in particular. Obviously the chances of any racing taking place anywhere in the world with spectators present are virtually nil at present, but racing is continuing behind closed doors in Japan, Hong Kong and some parts of Australia and the USA.

Trotting from Sweden (a country where life seems strangely to be going on as normal) is at the moment the only action in Europe, but there could be light at the end of the tunnel, as racing authorities in the U.K., France and also Germany have announced their intention of allowing racing to resume at the beginning of May, just in time for the Guineas Meeting at Newmarket. All April racing has been abandoned, including the Grand National meeting at Aintree and later in the month the Punchestown Festival, so that the 2019-20 N.H. season in the U.K. and Ireland is now effectively over.

In Germany, Deutscher Galopp (aka Direktorium) held a virtual press conference on Tuesday to elaborate. It is hoped that racing can also resume here on May 1st, but all racing until early June will be behind closed doors, and in any case much will depend on the official guidelines issued by the government. May 1st itself had two meetings scheduled, but only one per day will be allowed and in fact Munich has already been cancelled. The main event there, the Group Three Bavarian Classic, would normally have been an important classic trial; it is conceivable that it could be transferred elsewhere, including to Hanover´s fixture that day. Another important classic trial, the Dr. Busch-Memorial at Krefeld, originally due to be run on April 26th, could also be transferred to a later date. The German season revolves around the two major classics, which are also the most valuable races of the season: the Deutsches Derby at Hamburg (July 5th) and the Preis der Diana (Oaks) at Düsseldorf on August 2nd, and clearly the necessary trials should take place as near to their normal dates as possible. The German classics are normally run a month or more later than the equivalent races in the U.K. and France, which could well be a blessing in disguise this year. The Prix du Jockey Club is due to be run on May 31st, while in England, Wimbledon at the end of June/ early July has already been cancelled, and the Derby meeting at Epsom at the beginning of June is obviously in danger, possibly even Royal Ascot in the middle of the month. The executive committee of Deutscher Galopp is meeting tomorrow (Friday) to confirm the dates for the group races to be run in April, May and early June, several of which will clearly have to be moved or changed.

The press conference also marked the publication of the official figures for the 2019 racing season, and these figures were on the whole positive, in particular betting turnover which showed a marked increase after several years of decline. This is no doubt partly due to the reduction in the deductions taken from the betting pool, in particular on win and place bets, which has had the desired effect of strengthening the market. This year´s figures are of course unlikely to be positive, the loss of most of March and all of April, plus an unknown number of later fixtures, can hardly be compensated. It is clear that all involved in the racing industry will have to suffer a serious loss of income, and that includes race clubs putting on racing behind closed doors. Obviously racing in such circumstances is better than no racing at all -  especially for owners, trainers and jockeys- but these fixtures will clearly make a loss and prize-money looks certain to be reduced in many cases.

This is already happening in other countries. This weekend´s big Championships Meeting at Royal Randwick in Sydney is going to have prize-money for some of its top races reduced by 50%. They will be still be worth winning, but obviously a cut in prize-money for lesser grade races and maidens could have serious consequences. An interesting runner at the meeting from the German point of view is Best of Days (Azamour), now owned by Godolphin and an intended runner in the Group One Doncaster Mile, who was bred by Hoppegarten owner Gerhard Schöningh. Another Group One performer down under with German connections is the Ittlingen-bred Sound (Lando); the now seven-year-old, a full brother to Scalo (Lando), sire of last year´s German Derby winner Laccario, was a month ago an excellent runner-up in the Auckland Cup; the plan was to run him in the Sydney Cup next week, but it looks as if the travel restrictions between New Zealand and Australia will now make this impossible.

Racing is also taking place at Gulfstream Park in Florida and their big race, the Florida Derby, was won in good style by Tiz The Law (Constitution), who would normally now be favourite for the Kentucky Derby; as that race however has been postponed until September, we shall just have to wait and see. From the German perspective the interesting feature of the race was the third place of March to the Arch (Arch), owned by Team Valor International – great supporters of German breeding-and out of the German-bred mare Daveron;  she is by Black Sam Bellamy, who was at that time standing at Fährhof, and out of an Acatenango mare. The same meeting saw a win in a minor event for La Signare (Siyouni) who is out of a daughter of the Schlenderhan-bred Adrastea (Monsun), a half-sister to German 2,000 Guineas winner Aviso (Tertullian) and also to Aramina, dam of recent Cheltenham winner Aramax (Maxios); she is also distantly related to Allegretta (Lombard), who was also bred by Schlenderhan and can claim to be most successful broodmare worldwide of the past 30 years as the dam of Arc winner Urban Sea and hence second dam of superstar stallions Galileo and Sea The Stars.

With no racing in Europe until next month, there is little to report, but we hope to be back next week with some more international stories, and we hope some more successes for German breeding.

David Conolly-Smith

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