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The English page: Palmas - Queen of Düsseldorf

Palmas - Queen of Düsseldorf. www.galoppfoto.de - Stephanie Gruttmann


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 680 vom Freitag, 06.08.2021

Results so far suggest that the current crop of 3yo´s in Germany, at least as far as the colts are concerned, is no better than average and certainly nowhere near as talented as last year´s crop, but this does not apply to the fillies and we saw a really smart performer win last Sunday´s Group One 163rd Henkel Preis der Diana (German Oaks) at Düsseldorf. This was Gestüt Etzean´s homebred Palmas (Lord of England), trained by Andreas Wöhler and ridden with great confidence by Eduardo Pedroza.

The race appeared beforehand to be wide open, it had strength in depth – much more so than the German Derby run a month earlier –and all the likely candidates made it to the start. The only possible weakness was that there were no foreign runners; the expected supplementary entries failed to materialize, but it was still a very competitive affair. As usual when there is a large field at Düsseldorf, the draw played a major role, and from the outset it was clear that those drawn high, including leading fancies Reine d´Amour (Soldier Hollow) and  Amazing Grace (Oasis Dream) – the two highest-rated fillies in the field, - and Walkaway (Adlerflug) faced a very tough task.

Palmas however had an ideal draw in 6, while front-runner Alaskasonne (Soldier Hollow) was drawn in 2 and as expected soon took the lead. She was rather surprisingly accompanied by Reine d´Amour, who had quickly moved into contention from the wide outside. Palmas was soon going easily in third place, and basically the race was run to suit her. She had to wait a moment coming into the straight for a gap to appear between the two leaders, but as soon as it did so, she quickened in a flash and put the race to bed in a matter of strides.

She was soon well clear and finally scored by six lengths from Darius Racing´s Isfahani (Isfahan) and Noble Heidi (Intello), both trained by Henk Grewe, with Walkaway finishing fast and just pipping Anoush (Isfahan) for fourth place. Alaskasonne looked sure to be placed a furlong out, but found no more and in the end finished a gallant sixth, but Reine d´Amour weakened quickly into eleventh and probably does not stay. Thanks to the last-named pair, the race was run in an extremely fast time, the fastest ever since it moved to Düsseldorf (i.e. since 2006).

Amazing Grace actually started favourite at 4.3-1, but never really got into the race. She should certainly put this form right before long; earlier she had finished in front of Walkaway and Isfahani at Hamburg, and before that had defeated Noble Heidi (later 13th but only beaten about six lengths in the Prix de Diane) at Hoppegarten. Palmas was second favourite at Düsseldorf at 9-2 and Isfahani third favourite at 5.3-1. The latter, while probably not “the best horse Henk Grewe has ever trained”, as earlier claimed, was certainly not disgraced in second place and also looks worth following. The same goes for Walkaway and Anoush, earlier third in the Oaks d´Italia. The form has a very solid look to it.

But of course the star of the show was Palmas, who was only having the third start of her career and looks a very smart prospect indeed. She never ran at two, started this season with an easy win over a mile at Hanover (both of the placed horses have won since) and then stepped up considerably on this form when winning the listed Diana Trial at Düsseldorf. She looks certain to improve further. The handicapper has given her a rating of GAG 96 ½ (i.e. 113), the same as the recent German Derby winner Sisfahan, who would of course have to concede her weight should they ever meet. In the opinion of this writer, her Düsseldorf win was worth a bit more.

She certainly has the right pedigree, being a half-sister to two group race winners (both also trained by Wöhler) and from a prolific black type winning family. Her dam Peace Time was a listed-placed daughter of the highly influential sire and 1977 German Derby winner Surumu (and it is therefore a very long-lived family as well). However a closer look at the pedigree also suggests that she is not an out-and-out stayer, and Andreas Wöhler also shares this view. “I think that 2000 metres on a big track could well be her optimum trip.” The main target is now the Prix de l´Opera on Arc day, and it is quite possible that she will go there without another race in between, so that event would be only her fourth lifetime start, but she is definitely a filly to be taken very seriously.

The action now moves to Berlin, when Hoppegarten on Sunday stages its biggest meeting of the year; main event is the Group One Grosser Preis von Berlin, which is backed up by three listed races. The Grosser Preis has cut up slightly; on Wednesday eleven were declared, but three of them were subsequently taken out and all three probably run in Deauville´s Group Three Prix de Reux the same day. However the Hoppegarten race still has a worthy field, with two runners from the U.K. – the first this year in Germany. It is also an intriguing class between the current 3yo´s and five of the best German four-year-olds, plus the 7yo gelding (!!) Walton Street (Cape Cross) trained by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin, who will be partnered by James Doyle.

Walton Street is coming off a long break, his last start was in Meydan, where he won twice and then finished an excellent fourth to Mishriff in the Sheema Classic. He usually runs well after a break and Doyle is his regular jockey. He should certainly not be underestimated here, especially in view of the fantastic stable form, but the locals will no doubt be disappointed if he defeats the 4yo Torquator Tasso (Adlerflug), who won the race last year when it was run in November. Torquator Tasso also finished runner-up in the 2020 German Derby, form which now looks very good, and he holds Kaspar (Pivotal), who was placed third, not only on that form, but also on the two later occasions when they met last year. Kaspar took his revenge at Mülheim two months ago, but since then has run very feebly in France – with no obvious explanation- while Torquator Tasso was back to his best last time at Hamburg with a storming victory.

The two fillies look interesting, especially Henk Grewe´s Sunny Queen, who finished fast to beat Torquator Tasso in the Grosser Preis von Bayern last autumn, while Alpinista (Frankel) represents trainer Sir Mark Prescott and owner Kirsten Rausing; Alpinista has won both her starts this season, both over 2400 metres, but is up in grade here. However we still remember her granddam Albanova (Alzao), who won three German Group Ones over this trip in 2004 for the Prescott/ Rausing team. On balance we prefer Walton Street of the two Newmarket raiders, but they represent a stern test for the local hopes.

Finally we come to the two 3yo´s, who both ran last time in the German Derby, with Imi (Tertullian) finishing third and Aff un Zo (Kallisto) two necks back in fifth.-It would be no surprise to see Aff un Zo come out on top this time, but whether he is good enough to win is another matter. In general the 2020 German form looks much better than this season´s. Of equal interest of course is the Deauville race, where German Derby runner-up Alter Adler is due to run. Sunday should answer a lot of questions regarding the strength of current German form.

David Conolly-Smith

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