The English page: Racing & Breeding in Germany 19
Last Sunday's Grosser Preis von Berlin was arguably the best race of the season so far in Germany. Now back in its traditional home at Hoppegarten, it attracted eight runners, five of them with realistic chances, headed by this year's German Derby winner Nutan (Duke of Marmalade) and the much improved four-year-olds Ito (Adlerflug) and Newmarket raider Second Step (Dalakhani), as well as last year's winner Sirius (Dashing Blade) and the dangerous Australian-owned Singing (Singspiel).
Ito, a confirmed front-runner who had won all his 2015 starts very easily, went straight into the lead and set a strong pace, with Nutan racing in second, clearly intent on not letting him get too far in front. Ito still led by five lengths at the far turn. But when they came into the long straight, his lead had been cut to three lengths with Nutan making a strong effort to get on terms. However the three-year-old was never able to get to grips with the leader, and it was Luca Cumani´s Second Step (his trainer´s first ever runner in Germany) who emerged as the only danger, coming with a strong run on the outside. Hard ridden by Jamie Spencer (which cost him a hefty fine from the stewards for overuse of the whip), Second Step stayed on really well to master Ito in the final fifty yards and win by three-quarters of a length, with Nutan the same distance away in third, Sirius running on well for fourth and Singing four lengths back in fifth.
For both the winner and runner-up it was a much improved performance on their first foray into Group One company. The form looks very solid and Ito looks a worthy favourite for the Grosser Preis von Baden, while Cumani immediately nominated the Irish St. Leger as the next start for Second Step, who was homebred by Craig Bennett (Merry Fox Stud) who was there with his family to enjoy this triumph- the third Group One winner he has bred since starting his breeding operation in Cheshire. Second Step is the eighth Group One winner by the Aga Khan´s Arc winner Dalakhani, who stands at Gilltown Stud in Ireland, and is out of a Sadler´s Wells mare from an excellent family.
Cumani was very complimentary after the race to the runner-up Ito who was certainly the horse to take out of the race. However Nutan, as the only three-year-old, was far from disgraced on only the fifth start of his career. He has always been regarded as a late developer who will be even better at four. It is not yet clear whether he will also take his chance at Baden-Baden, connections may well go for the slightly easier option of the Preis von Europa at his home track of Cologne.
Hoppegarten has changed beyond recognition since Gerhard Schöningh took over in 2008. In those days it was very depressing and barely improved from its long period behind the Iron Curtain, but it now has the best buzz of any German racecourse. We have now had three really good Group One races on successive Sundays at Munich, Düsseldorf and Hoppegarten, all of them very successful meetings. But while the first two have long-established sponsors putting in a huge effort, Schöningh basically has to do it all himself and pay for it too, as the race has no sponsor. He has done a fantastic job and deserves the highest praise.
The big problem with Hoppegarten is its geographical position to the east of Berlin, and a long way from the major German training centres in the Rhine valley, let alone from France, the U.K. or Ireland. A British success in their biggest race of the year was therefore very welcome. Craig Bennett spares no expense in his racing and breeding activities, and Second Step was flown over, which is far from cheap, although in this case well justified. This success, it is hoped, will encourage more runners from the U.K. in future; the track itself is excellent and in tiptop condition despite the most unfavourable weather conditions (a two month heatwave with virtually no rain). Schöningh will also have been happy to see Penmaen (Pivotal) win the other black type race on the card, a listed sprint; the John Deer homebred is trained in Chantilly by John Hammond.
The form of this year´s Deutsches Derby will be tested again this Sunday at Krefeld, when the Grosser Preis der Sparkasse Krefeld will be run. The race was originally run at Baden-Baden as the Fürstenberg-Rennen; it is for three-year-olds only over an extended ten furlongs, and five of the eight runners last ran in the Hamburg classic: Palace Prince (Areion), runner-up in the Derby, Rogue Runner (King´s Best) fifth, Molly le Clou (Doyen) seventh, Iraklion (Areion) and Bonusdargent (Kendargent), who finished sixteenth of the eighteen runners. Over this shorter trip and on this tighter track, it is by no means certain that the form will be confirmed, but Nutan did the Derby form no harm last Sunday and confirmed his current rating of 118.