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The English page - Review of the 2018 season in Germany

Iquitos, almost certain to be voted German Horse of the Year. www.galoppfoto.de - WiebkeArt


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 549 vom Freitag, 21.12.2018

Overall it must be said that 2018 was a disappointing year for German racing. There were plenty of highlights, but the classic generation in particular was weaker than in most recent seasons. In this decade German-trained horses have won the Prix de l´Arc de Triomphe, the King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (twice!), the Melbourne Cup and a race at Royal Ascot. There were some notable international successes for German-breds in 2018, for example A Raving Beauty (bred by Karlshof) in the U.S.A., Almandin (Schlenderhan) in Australia or Pakistan Star (Wittekindshof) in Hong Kong, but the sad fact is that no runner trained here won a group race in France or the U.K. – for the first time in many years – and although were some successes in Italy, that country is with all due respect no longer a first-rate racing nation.

On the other hand, horses trained abroad – mainly in the U.K.- won many of Germany´s most prestigious events. Fortunately several of them went on to further success elsewhere and thereby upgraded the German form. Ed Walker saddled his first runner in Germany when Stormy Antarctic (Stormy Atlantic) contested the Badener Meile at the end of May and he ran out a comfortable winner, later putting up several smart performances at Group One level, notably when a close fourth to Roaring Lion at Ascot. Even more striking were the performances of Saeed bin Suroor´s Godolophin-owned runners in the summer. First Benbatl (Dubawi) won Munich´s Grosser Dallmayr Preis, beating Stormy Antarctic, then Best Solution (Kodiac) brought off the Grosser Preis von Berlin and Baden double. The pair travelled then to Australia and certainly boosted the German form, with the former winning the Ladbrokes Stakes and then running up to the great Winx in the Cox Plate, while the latter took the Caulfield Cup and then ran a respectable eighth after missing the break in the Melbourne Cup, both times under top weight. As a result of these results the ratings of the top German races are well within the necessary parameters.

The first English-trained winner of the season was Mark Johnston´s Nyaleti (Arch) in the German 1,000 Guineas at Düsseldorf; she also showed good form later on, especially when only beaten a neck in the Premio Lydia Tesio, Italy´s last remaining Group One race. British trainers often target the German fillies´ classics, in which they have an excellent record, but rarely the colts´ races, and in this regard the locals had the scene almost entirely to themselves. But here the season started badly; the two early favourites for the German Derby were injured early on. Erasmus (Reliable Man), the top 2yo of 2017, missed the entire season, and then Alounak (Camelot), after two very promising performances in the spring, was also injured and not seen out again.

The German 2,000 Guineas was won by the Jean-Pierre Carvalho-trained Ancient Spirit (Invincible Spirit) who scored in good style and later won the Darley Oettingen-Rennen in a controversial finish at Baden-Baden; however he has since been sold to Australia. Only 13 showed up for the Deutsches Derby, the richest race of the season, and top trainer Markus Klug and Andreas Wöhler saddled three apiece. Klug hit the jackpot herer with the first two, Röttgen´s homebred Weltstar beating another son of Soldier Hollow Destino, with Wöhler´s Royal Youmzain (Youmzain) a close third. This was a great result for Röttgen following the 2017 success in the same race for Weltstar´s half-brother Windstoss (Shirocco), however suspicions that it was a below par Derby were soon confirmed. Weltstar suffered a setback and did not run again, while Destino came out to win a Group Three from Derby fourth Salve del Rio (Rio de la Plata), and then did not run again, while the latter was one of several who were subsequently sold, quite a few of them to go hurdling, but very little was seen adterwards of the other contenders.

Klug´s double success in the Derby wrapped up the trainers´ championship at an early stage, and he finished top of the table with 67 domestic winners and 1,871,350 euros in prize-money, an excellent achievement considering the level or prize-money here. Peter Schiergen and Andreas Wöhler both had good seasons in second and third place, but the trainer who really hit the headlines was Henk Grewe, for whom everything went right, including his first Group One success when Khan (Santiago) won the Preis von Europa on heavy ground, which was rarely experienced this year, one of the driest ever. Grewe, who turned 36 this month, also sent out over 50 winners in France. The four trainers mentioned here also dominated the 2yo races, so they should again be prominent in 2019. Juveniles are not usually given a hard time here, but one who made quite an impact was Grewe´s Teofilo filly Donjah, who won both her races in impressive style and is currently ante-post favourite for both next year´s German Derby and the Preis der Diana (Oaks).

The 2018 version of that classic was won by the favourite Well Timed (Holy Roman Emperor), giving her trainer “Chippie” Carvalho and owner-breeder Stall Ullmann a classic double following Ancient Spirit. However the form of the Preis der Diana worked out as badly as that of the Derby, and very few of the runners shone afterwards.

The best older horse was undoubtedly Stall Mulligan´s Iquitos, expertly trained by veteran Hans-Jürgen Gröschel in Hanover. Everything has to fall right for this six-year-old, but after a series of good places it finally clicked with a well deserved success in the Grosser Preis von Bayern. He thus won the German Champions League for the second time and is almost certain to be voted German Horse of the Year, also for the second time. He has now been retired to stud, and certainly looks the most interesting of the new stallion intake, at least of those who were trained in Germany.

The 2018 stallion statistics were dominated to two relative oldies, 18-year-old Soldier Hollow (In the Wings) and 23-year-old Areion (Big Shuffle). Soldier Hollow, thanks to the first two in the Derby and numerous other big race winners, was clear top with 48 winners of 74 races and 1,387,185 euros in prize-money (referring only to races run in Germany – he had more winners abroad as well). Areion is remarkably consistent and finishes in the top three with remarkable regularity.  Other stallions to have a decent season were Lord of England (Dashing Blade) and Adlerflug (In the Wings), but it is a worrying fact that Tai Chi (High Chaparral) is the only other active German-based stallion in the top thirty in the statistics.

It must be hoped that 2019 will turn out better for the German racing and breeding industry. Several of those who missed much, or all, of the season through injury will be back, while some very promising two-year-olds from the top stables also give hope for the future. As this is our last English page for 2018, we would like to wish all readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and also wish the whole of German racing a much more successful 2019.

David Conolly-Smith

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