Seven Days: Triumph and Despair


Rene Piechulek wins the Grosser Preis von Baden for the second year running, this time on Mendocino | Emma Berry


There is a charming tradition for the large crowd at Baden-Baden races to applaud the runners as the field passes the post for the first time, never mind in the closing stages. For Sunday's racegoers, many of whom arrived with well-behaved dogs and sometimes less well-behaved children, the excitement level reached near-fever pitch as Frankie Dettori urged home German racing's current hero, Torquator Tasso (Ger). At the post the pair went down by just a head to the winner Mendocino (Ger), another son of Adlerflug (Ger) ridden by the man who knows the Arc winner better than anyone else, his regular jockey Rene Piechulek. 

The latter will now presumably be obliged to retain his partnership with the Longchamp-bound Mendocino, and Torquator Tasso's trainer Marcel Weiss acted swiftly to book Dettori for the 5-year-old's defence of the Arc as soon as his debrief was concluded. 

It was a dramatic denouement to the 152nd running of the Grosser Preis von Baden in a year when the racecourse had been planning to celebrate the great race's 150th anniversary until the realisation dawned that a miscount some 25 years ago meant that we have jumped straight from the 149th edition last year without a proper fanfare. That won't bother Mendocino's trainer Sarah Steinberg, owner Stall Salzburg and breeder Gestut Brummerhof, who rightly enjoyed this major breakthrough success for the 4-year-old who had previously come closest to winning at group level when finishing second to Alpinista (GB) in last year's G1 Grosser Preis von Bayern. 

And this drama was nothing compared to the awful scene played out only ten minutes earlier in Paris as Coroebus (Ire) suffered a fatal injury when launching his challenge in the G1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp. William Buick, the red-hot favourite to be Britain's champion jockey for this first time this year, stood himself down for the rest of the day but appears, thankfully, to have been relatively unscathed in the shocking fall for the 2,000 Guineas and St James's Palace S. winner.

Dettori on the other hand received a 14-day ban for going one strike over the permitted whip-use limit on Torquator Tasso which, equally thankfully for him, ends just in time for the duo to renew their acquaintance in the Arc.

Hammer Time

One jockey who kept clear of drama and became well acquainted with the Baden-Baden winner's enclosure on Sunday was Thore Hammer-Hansen. Though currently British-based, Hammer-Hansen has in fact been well acquainted with the racecourse at Iffezheim for most of his life.

“Mum and Dad live at the six-furlong start and I used to go running round here all the time,” he explained after notching the first group win of his career in the G2 Oleander-Rennen for owner-breeder Karl-Dieter Ellebracke of Gestut Auenquelle aboard Dapango (Ger) (Soldier Hollow {GB}). The 22-year-old jockey was joined on the presentation rostrum by his proud father, Danish-born Lennart, formerly a hugely successful jockey in Germany with more than 1,000 wins to his name.

“The whole family is here,” continued Thore, who was previously apprenticed to Richard Hannon and rode out his claim almost a year ago. “I've always said that I'd love to come over for the big races and Gestut Auenquelle have been great supporters from the very beginning, and I am absolutely delighted that they have called me over again. I'd love to come over as much as possible as long as Sir Mark Prescott and the other people I ride for in England are happy about it.”

Hammer-Hansen junior followed up his big-race success immediately when winning the following race on New Moon (Cze) for Jan Korpas, and later made it a treble when winning the Stadt Baden-Baden Cup on Fellow (Ger) for Dr Andreas Bolte.

Vandeberg Enjoying The Moment

Among the crowd was Torquator Tasso's breeder Paul Vandeberg who had made the trip to Iffezheim with two friends and is still pinching himself following the  triumphant return of the Arc winner's younger half-brother Tünnes (Ger) (Guiliani {Ger}) in the BBAG sales race at Baden-Baden on Wednesday. That victory for the 3-year-old came in his first run since he won the G3 Herzog von Ratibor-Rennen last November.

“I still cannot believe it, that he would come back like that after 10 months off the track,” said Vandeberg, a breeder of some 50 years' standing, as he reflected on the fact that his sole broodmare Tijuana (Ger) (Toylsome {GB}) has hit the jackpot twice already with her second and fourth foals.

“Sometimes you just have the luck,” he added. “And Tijuana is the most wonderful mare. Eight times I have sent her to be covered on foal heat, and eight times she has got in foal straight away.”

Vandeberg was not disheartened by Torquator Tasso's narrow defeat in the Grosser Preis and is already looking forward to him returning to Paris, where he believes the chance of softer ground and the right-hand track will once again play to the horse's strengths. The breeder has plenty more to look forward to than just the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as he has a yearling and foal full-sibling to Torquator Tasso and Tunnes respectively at home.

HKJC Broadens German Link…

There will be hope among the German racing community that a number of its major races may soon feature in the World Pool series. After the Grosser Preis von Berlin being made available for those betting into the Hong Kong Jockey Club pools last month, a further three races from Baden-Baden on Sunday benefited from the same arrangement, including the day's feature, the Grosser Preis von Baden. This led to a busier race programme than usual for the finale at the Iffezheim track, with 12 races in total, starting from 11.15am. Not a day for the fainthearted.

…And American and German Links Deepen

Twenty-four hours after buying the top lot, a Kingman (GB) colt from Gestut Fahrhof, at BBAG's Yearling Sale on Friday, the Roth family's LNJ Foxwoods enjoyed Grade I glory at a different spa town, Saratoga, as the co-owner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Olympiad (Speightstown) with Cheyenne Stables.

There could be a strong contingent with a German background at this year's Breeders' Cup, following the 'win and you're in' success of Virginia Joy (Ger) (Soldier Hollow {GB}) in the GII Flower Bowl S. for Peter Brant and Chad Brown. The 5-year-old mare joined Brown's stable last spring having previously been trained in Germany by Torquator Tasso's trainer Marcel Weiss for her breeder Gestut Auenquelle, which is also home to her sire, and previously to the sires of two of her first three dams, Doyen (GB) and Big Shuffle.

With the Gestut Ammerland-bred GI Beverley D S. winner Dalika (Ger) (Pastorius {Ger}) already being aimed towards the Breeders' Cup, and the possibility of Saturday's G2 T von Zastrow Stutenpreis winner Amazing Grace (Ger) (Protectionist {Ger}) sure to have a strong chance if she heads to the GI EP Taylor S. in October, it will not be a surprise to see more American visitors attending Germany's major yearling sale in the future. 

Minzaal Boosts Shadwell's Great Season

Of course, it hasn't all been happening in Germany this week. For Owen Burrows, the wheel of fortune has spun both ways this season, sometimes in a dizzying fashion, with Hukum (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) claiming the trainer's first Group 1 win in the Coronation Cup only to be ruled out of the rest of the season the next day, having picked up an injury in the race. 

As Britain's departing Prime Minister Boris Johnson likes to say, “Them's the breaks”. Burrows is an altogether much more honourable type of Englishman than Johnson, and it was therefore pleasing indeed to see him gain his second top-flight victory at the other end of the distance spectrum but for the same owner with Minzaal (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}) in the G1 Sprint Cup at Haydock.

Hukum's brother Baaeed (GB) has gained all the plaudits this season, but he is far from the only star in the Shadwell constellation. Hukum and Minzaal have contributed to a hugely successful season for Sheikha Hissa Hamdan Al Maktoum, who also won the G3 September S. at Kempton on Saturday with the Gosden-trained homebred Mostahdaf (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) and has another two exciting prospects in the Burrows stable in the Group 3-winning duo of Alflaila (GB) (Dark Angel {Ire}) and Anmaat (Ire) (Awtaad {Ire}).

The victory of Minzaal also provided a first Group 1 winner as breeder for Derek and Gay Veitch of Ringfort Stud, who have enjoyed some terrific seasons of late, including Minzaal's G2 Gimcrack S. win two years ago, which followed the success of Threat (Ire) (Footstepsinthesand {GB}) in the same race a year earlier, while Group 2-winning fillies Indie Angel (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) and Miss Amulet (Ire) (Sir Prancealot {Ire}) have also advertised the stud's credentials in recent years.

Ringfort Stud is selling two yearlings at the Tattersalls Somerville Sale on Tuesday, and interested parties will have to get in quick as the colts by first-season sires Phoenix Of Spain (Ire) and Inns Of Court (Ire) go through as lots 9 and 18 respectively. 

Vale, Jack de Bromhead

The racing and sales wheels keep turning in relentless fashion at this time of year but, absorbed as we all may be with this hectic scene, none of it really matters when set against the tragic accident at the Glenbeigh pony races on Saturday. That young Jack de Bromhead died doing what he loved will be of little comfort or consolation in these saddest of days to those who mourn his absence. To Jack's family and friends we offer our sincere condolences.

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