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The English page - Problems, problems

The last Darley Oettingen-Rennen? Ancient Spirit's Team 2018. www.galoppfoto.de


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 554 vom Freitag, 08.02.2019

Several items of news this week, most of them bad:

Brexit: Theresa May is once again trying to renegotiate the deal with the EU, even though the EU has repeatedly stated that this is not on the table. The chance of a “no deal Brexit” has become more likely, which would have catastrophic effects, many of which are still impossible to predict. This could certainly cause problems for racing and breeding, although not as much for Germany as for France and Ireland; if the “tripartite agreement” still holds up, and the U.K. is granted “third country status” regarding the movement of live animals, this would be of huge benefit and most of the problems could be avoided..

Equine influenza: the news that all British racing has been cancelled today (Thursday) because of apparently three cases of equine influenza in a racing stable in England has come as a bombshell. According to reports the stable is that of leading N.H. trainer Donald McCain in Bankhouse/ Cheshire and what is especially worrying is the fact that the three affected horses were all vaccinated against flu. There were already reports of cases in France. Unfortunately equine influenza is extremely contagious and can only be stopped by strict quarantine and a ban on the movement of horses. This could cause grave problems for the whole of European racing. One remembers the closing of Cologne racecourse for three months in 2012, following a single case of equine infectious anaemia, which prevented Germany´s star filly Danedream from running in the “Arc”, for which she was favourite; last year the Turkish authorities had to cancel their big international meeting because of a case of glanders; in Australia an outbreak of equine influenza in 2007 closed virtually the whole racing industry for several weeks and resulted in the cancellation of the Sydney Spring Carnival. There have apparently been cases in Germany recently in riding stables, but not in any racing stable. We must await developments here and hope for the best.

Darley sponsorship: Darley, which is the name for the breeding operation of Sheikh Mohammed´s racing and bloodstock empire, shocked the racing world this week with the news that after a global review of its marketing it is going to cancel the sponsorship of several top races. Sheikh Mohammed, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, has been a huge supporter of thoroughbred racing for almost half a century, not only as one of the largest owners and employers in the racing business, but also by several initiatives such as the Godolphin Flying Start to support young racing professionals. Newmarket in particular has benefited from the involvement of the Sheikh and other members of the Maktoum family and their friends, and it is believed that there will no cuts in the town that is regarded as the HQ of British racing. However it has already been confirmed that Darley is stopping its sponsorship of several major international events, such as the Irish Oaks at the Curragh and the Yorkshire Oaks at York. Races in France are also believed to be under threat, while the only race it sponsors in Germany is the Darley Oettingen-Rennen, a Group Two event normally held on the Thursday of Baden-Baden´s Grosse Woche. It has so far not been officially confirmed, but it is believed that this sponsorship is also to cease, which could cause more problems for Germany´s top meeting.

Downgrades for German group races:  the European Pattern Committee held its annual meeting last week in London and has made several changes to the European pattern. Italy is no longer a full member and has lost its last remaining Group One race, the Premio Lydia Tesio, while the Prix de Royallieu, previously a Group Two race for fillles over 2500 metres run on Arc weekend, has been promoted to Group One status and increased in distance, as part of the policy of encouraging races for stayers. The only change as far as Germany is concerned is the demotion of one listed race at Hanover.

However there is a sting in the tail for Germany, as the committee also listed four German races which could be in danger of being downgraded next year if their ratings do not improve significantly. They include two of Germany´s most important Group One races, the Deutsches Derby at Hamburg and the Preis von Europa, the annual highlight at Cologne. This writer does not believe that the committee will really demote the Derby, but it is a fact that the form of the race in recent years has not been as strong as one would like. Last year´s winner Weltstar has not run since and the placed horses have not really distinguished themselves. His half-brother Windstoss, the 2017 Derby winner, failed to win in 8 starts as a 4yo last year; the 2016 winner Isfahan was another who never ran again after his Derby success, also 2015 winner Nutan only ran once more after the Derby, when third in the Grosser Preis von Berlin. In this decade, the only editions of the race to have had a really high rating were the 2014 (Sea the Moon) and 2012 (Pastorius) versions. Those two winners are now both very promising young stallions, and they are part of a long line of German Derby winners that have subsequently played a huge role in the European bloodstock scene.

The Preis von Europa unfortunately has certainly lost some of its reputation since its glory days, when it was one of the richest races in Europe and attracted top class runners from the U.K. and France. It has no sponsor at present and its prize money of 155,000 euros, near the bottom end of the permitted scale, no longer attracts top foreign runners; in addition there are now many more valuable races run internationally in September than was the case 20 years ago. The Preis von Europa has a great history and it would be a crying shame for it to lose its Group One status, but it would be a real catastrophe for the reputation of German racing if that were to happen to the Derby. The other two races in danger of demotion are Hoppegarten´s Diana-Trial in early June and the Goldene Peitsche on the first Sunday of Baden-Baden´s Grosse Woche – both at the moment Group Two. These races also have an important role in the German calendar, and it must be hoped that all four of these events are won in 2019 by a really top class performer who goes on to boost the form by further big race successes.

David Conolly-Smith

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