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German horses in Australia

Lucas Cranach, one of the first German horses in Australia. www.galoppfoto.de - Sabine Brose


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 557 vom Freitag, 01.03.2019

This seems a very convenient week to look at the huge impact that German thoroughbreds, or at least those with German connections, have made on Australian racing in recent years. The anomaly of Australian racing is that the local breeders concentrate almost entirely on producing sprinters, but the country´s most valuable and iconic race is the Melbourne Cup over two miles. For a long time New Zealand breeders took advantage of this situation, and dominated the “race that stops a nation” for many decades, but since Dermot Weld stunned the locals by sending Vintage Crop (Rousillon) from Ireland to win the Melbourne Cup in 1993, and then followed up with Media Puzzle (Theatrical) in 2002, European-breds have held sway, and German owners and breeders have profited strongly from this trend.

This started with Lucas Cranach (Mamool), who was bred by Gestüt Graditz, who won Hamburg´s Grosser Hansa-Preis in 2011 and then ran unplaced behind Danedream in the Grosser Preis von Berlin, following which he was sold to Australia and promptly finished third in the Melbourne Cup. He ran in the colours of Australian Bloodstock, syndicates managed by Luke Murrell and Jamie Lovett, and the sale was brokered by Ronald Rauscher. “I had never had any contact with them before,” remembers Rauscher, “and a mutual acquaintance, Australian-born and Irish-based bloodstock agent David Medbury, put me in touch.” That was the beginning of a highly successful partnership between Rauscher and Australian Bloodstock, who is now their official German representative; since then he has bought (and sold) dozens of horses  for syndicates run by Murrell and Lovett.

Their biggest success came with Protectionist (Monsun), who had also won the Hansa-Preis in the colours of his breeder Dr. Christoph Berglar. After that race in 2014 his trainer Andreas Wöhler decided that Protectionist would be the ideal candidate for the Melbourne Cup, and as Ronald Rauscher was also Berglar´s racing manager, Australian Bloodstock was the obvious partner in this undertaking. After his easy win in Flemington, Protectionist, by now fully owned by Australian Bloodstock, stayed on in Australia and went into training with Kris Lees. However he lost his form and in 2016 was shipped back to Andreas Wöhler, who skillfully brought him back to his best. He won all three starts in Germany in 2016, including the Hansa-Preis for the second time, and then the Grosser Preis von Berlin. He is now a resident stallion at Gestüt Röttgen and his first foals were born last year.

Protectionist was followed by another German-bred winner of the Melbourne Cup in 2016, the Schlenderhan-bred Almandin, who has since won another Australian Group One and is still in training for trainer Robert Hickmott and a syndicate headed by Lloyd Williams. Amazingly, Almandin was the third winner of the race in four years to be sired by Monsun (Königsstuhl), which has only increased the appetite of Australian owners for German-breds. The first Monsun winner was the Irish-bred Fiorente, who now stands at Sun Stud in Victoria and is one of the hottest young stallions in Australia. One of his yearlings was the salestopper at this week´s Tasmania Magic Millions Sale, and it seems  that Monsun  - already a major influence in British, Irish and French N.H. racing through his stallion sons Network, Shirocco, Arcadio, Getaway et al – is going to continue to carry the flag for German breeding for many years to come.

Arguably the best German horse sent to Germany is another Schlenderhan-bred, (Our) Ivanhowe (Soldier Hollow), winner of the Grosser Preis von Baden and Grosser Preis von Bayern in 2014; he was sold to a syndicate headed by “Ozzie” Kheir and added two more Group Ones to his CV down under; he has since retired and has returned to Europe to stand at Haras d´Annebault. Schlenderhan also bred Mawingo (Tertullian), another one sold to Australian Bloodstock via Ronald Rauscher, who won the 2012 Doomden Cup for trainer Antony Freedman, also trainer of Lucas Cranach and (Our) Ivanhowe, who now stands at the Grenville Stud in Tasmania.

Rauscher has also sourced several smart performers from the U.K., Ireland and France for Australian Bloodstock, for example Red Cardinal (Montjeu) who was bought out of David Simcock´s stable in the autumn of 2016 and promptly finished runner-up in the Group One Preis von Europa for Andreas Wöhler. He then started the 2017 season by winning Germany´s top straying race, the Group Two Oleander-Rennen at Hoppegarten, following which he won the Group Three Belmont Gold Cup and was then transferred to Australia. He was well beaten in both the 2017 and 2018 Melbourne Cups but was a 25-1 winner last week of the valuable Parramatta Cup. Originally trained down under by the now-disgraced Darren Weir, he is now with Kris Lees. Last year Australian Bloodstock bought the smart stayer Torcedor (Fastnet Rock) out of Jessica Harrington´s stable. He also was transferred to Andreas Wöhler and began by contesting the Preis von Europa; this however did not work out so well, he finished last on very bad ground and was later found to be suffering from an infection. However he is reported to be back in full health now and Wöhler hopes to prepare him for another crack at the Ascot Gold Cup, in which he finished a close third last year. After that, Australia beckons. Australia Bloodstock currently have three horses in training with Wöhler: Torcedor, the promising three-year-old Revelstoke (Toronado), whose early season target is the German 2,000 Guineas, and the two-year-old Queensland (War Command).

Ronald Rauscher and Australian Bloodstock are by no means the only players here. HFTB Racing Agency, in Germany, and the Australian Tried and True Bloodstock have recently combined to buy two of Germany´s leading stayers to go into training with Matthew Smith, with the 2019 Melbourne Cup as an obvious target. They are the Ullmann-bred five-year-old Monreal (by Peintre Celebre out of a Monsun mare) and the Wittekindshof-bred Sweet Thomas (Dylan Thomas)-, a seven-year-old gelding who won last year´s German St. Leger. The same pair have also teamed up with the Australian agent Suman Hedge to buy Schabau (Pastorius), one of Germany´s better three-year-olds in 2018. He is now in training with Robert Hickmott – trainer of Melbourne Cup winner Almandin - and has won both his starts down under very easily; he is due to run this Saturday in the listed Roy Higgins Quality and has already been well backed for this year´s Melbourne Cup. The same team has also bought into Django Freeman (Campanologist), runner-up in last year´s Preis des Winterfavoriten, Germany´s top juvenile event, and a leading fancy for this year´s German Derby. It is quite possible that he will be off to Australia after that race.

Another Australian syndicate has bought the Ittlingen-bred Sound Check (Lando), who won last year´s Oleander-Rennen and was an excellent runner-up in the Grosser Preis von Berlin. Now in training with Michael Moroney, he was well beaten in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cops last autumn, but his German form certainly suggests that he is much better than those runs would indicate and he can make atones this year.

The common factor behind these purchases is the element of stamina which is such a feature of traditional German breeding. Five of the seven German Group One races are run over the classic distance of 2400 metres, and most German breeders are aiming to produce runners who can stay this distance. This is of course not always the case. Germany´s top miler of 2018, the Ullmann-bred Ancient Spirit (Invincible Spirit) is the exception that proves the rule here. He was bought by the big Chinese stable YuLong Investments after last year´s Arc sale and is now in training with Chris Waller of Winx fame. He has been renamed Advance Yulong and makes his Australian debut on Saturday in the Liverpool City Cup at Royal Randwick.  With Schabau at Flemington and the two Fiorente 3yo´s in the Australian Guineas, Saturday promises to be a red letter day for German breeding down under!

David Conolly-Smith

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