The English page: Racing & Breeding in Germany 16
This has been a relatively quiet week in German racing, although the highly popular summer meeting at Bad Harzburg has been attracting some decent crowds. This week long fixture in a resort area of the Harz mountains is always a crowd-puller, but even its greatest fans will admit that most of the sport on offer is at a low level. They are however making an effort to upgrade the racing, and Saturday's BBAG sales race for three-year-olds over an extended nine furlongs will be the most valuable race ever staged at the track. There are some quite well-bred types running as well, notably the Russian-owned Navigator, who is by Dashing Blade out of an own sister to King George winner Novellist. He was also the most expensive, having cost 160,000 euros. However on the form shown so far, the one to beat could be Stall 5- Stars´ homebred Rabi (by their own sire It's Gino).
The only black type race of the week so far was Sunday´s Sprint- Cup at Hoppegarten, a listed race over five furlongs, in which Danish-trained but British-bred Liber (Ishiguru) made all and won easily enough. Hot favourite Donnerschlag (Bahamian Bounty), who had won a better race at Hamburg previously, was a big disappointment, starting at odds-on but finishing only fourth. The sad fact remains that German sprinters are on the whole well inferior to their counterparts in other European countries, but this is due to the emphasis here on mile and a half races, in which the Germans have repeatedly starred. There is no German runner in Saturday´s King George, but German-bred and –owned four-year-olds have won two of the three previous editions.
As far as the public were concerned, the big race at Hoppegarten was the “Match Race 2015” between two modest handicappers over six furlongs, which preceded the main event. This race, resulting from a private challenge between two of Germany´s most colourful owners Guido Schmitt and Christian Sundermann, had attracted enormous publicity in social media and also in the popular press; one of the leading bookmakers here put up 10,000 euros in prize-money to sponsor the race, which was donated to the German Jockey School. Purists may sneer at such races, as the two horses concerned were vastly inferior to Seabiscuit and War Admiral, whose names were frequently invoked, but there was no harm done, a great deal of fun was had by all, and the event created a good deal of favourable publicity and goodwill for racing, which is certainly sorely needed. For the record, Schmitt´s British-bred Gamgoom (Exceed and Excel) won easily by four lengths, as he was entitled to do on the official ratings. He was earlier trained by Harry Dunlop, but missed all of last year before Schmitt bought him cheaply: “he cost me 4,500 euros,” said the new owner, “and he has won me six races – including this one- and over 30,000 euros in prize-money.”
However we are now moving into a very busy period, with three of the most important races of the season on the next three Sundays. This week is the Grosser Dallmayr-Preis over ten furlongs at Munich, Germany´s top middle distance event, followed a week later by the Preis der Diana (German Oaks) at Düsseldorf, and a week after that, the Grosser Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten, the race that catapulted subsequent Arc and King George winner Danedream into stardom four years ago.
The Dallmayr-Preis, Munich´s big race of the year, is likely to be contested by ten runners, with Air Pilot (Zamindar) the only foreign runner. The six-year-old was supplemented by trainer Ralph Beckett on Wednesday as he prefers to run him here rather than in a Group Two at York on Saturday, as the going in Bavaria is likely to be more suitable. “I was worried by the likelihood of firm going at York” said the trainer, “and we are hoping for better going at Munich, as Air Pilot likes a bit of juice in the ground.” It looks as if he will be in luck, as the long and at times almost unbearable heatwave has finally come to an end, and there is plenty of rain about. Air Pilot is very lightly raced, won a Group Three at the Curragh last time and is expected to take this step up in class, especially as his trainer has apparently never had a runner out of the first two so far in Germany.
However the obvious one to beat is Lucky Lion (High Chaparral), who won this race last year, defeating none other than subsequent Champion Stakes winner Noble Mission. That form is by far the best in the field, although his performances since then have been less convincing. The two that might spoil the picnic are the filly Wunder (Adlerflug) and the locally trained Magic Artist (Iffraaj). Stall Lucky Owner's homebred Ajalo (King's Best) is the only three-year-old in the line-up; he had useful form in the early season classic trials, but probably needs to improve to figure here against some smart older horses.