Seven Days: Veni, Vidi, Vici, Vadeni

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Vadeni, centre, wins an epic battle for the G1 Coral-Eclipse | Racingfotos.com

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This season we appear to have been gifted an above average crop of 3-year-olds, along with some truly exciting older horses who have remained in training. It is as it should be, but things don't always work out that way. 

France and England exchanged Group 1 races at the weekend: on Saturday it was a case of veni, vidi, vici for Vadeni (Fr) (Churchill {Ire}), who gave France a first victory in the race since 1960, when it was won by the Percy Carter-trained Javelot (Fr) (Fast Fox {Fr}). The prize had also gone to France the year before Javelot when the winner was Saint Crespin (Fr) (Aureole {GB}), trained by Alec Head for Prince Aly Khan, the father of Vadeni's owner/breeder HH Aga Khan IV.

Then, in a stellar comeback performance in the G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on Sunday, Kirsten Rausing's lovely grey mare Alpinista (GB) (Frankel {GB}) added yet another win to her unbroken string which now extends to six, including four Group 1s. 

Hundred Up

There can be few better ways to celebrate 100 years of Aga Khan Studs breeding than by providing the sport with the pre-eminent 3-year-old colt of the season so far, and that is how we must view Vadeni following his success in the Prix du Jockey Club against his peers and subsequent Eclipse success. 

When Native Trail (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) and Coroebus (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) lined up for the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and then returned to scale in tandem after finishing first and second, it was hard to split them on looks. Both dark bay colts are big, strong and solid, and Native Trail appeared to have come on again when glimpsed in the paddock before the Eclipse. As befits a race of its status, it was a good-looking field, albeit none of the six runners were brought into the pre-parade ring, to the disappointment of a significant number of people who had gathered there to see them. With the numbers through the gates at racecourses falling this year it seems madness to disappoint the faithful and serious racegoers by depriving them of one of the most important aspects of a day at the races: the opportunity to inspect the runners parading before they are saddled. It is not just Sandown where this has slipped, as a number of runners in both the Derby and the Oaks came up so late to the parade ring at Epsom that they took only one turn before going to post.

That grumble aside, once in the main parade ring, Native Trail, Bay Bridge (GB) (New Bay {GB}) and Mishriff (Ire) (Make Believe {Ire}) were the three most imposing colts. It has to be said that the smaller and quite slight Vadeni did not match this trio on looks, but handsome is as handsome does, and the whippet in the pack of greyhounds was given the perfect slipstream ride by Christophe Soumillon, who produced him with a flourish to make a devastating challenge two furlongs from home to win what will surely be one of the best races of the year.

Vadeni's grand-dam, the G1 Prix Saint-Alary winner Vadawina (Ire) (Unfuwain), was one of 74 horses in training purchased among a batch of 222 horses which formed the entire racing and breeding operation of the late Jean-Luc Lagardere in 2005, including his stallion, Linamix (Fr). The amalgamation of the Lagardere bloodlines with the Aga Khan stock, following earlier acquisitions from fellow influential breeders Marcel Boussac and Francois Dupre, has continued to revitalise the Aga Khan Studs broodmare band while working in tandem with lines that have been nurtured by the operation throughout the last century. 

Jean-Claude Rouget is no stranger to big-race success in his home country but Vadeni was his first Group 1 winner in Britain since Almanzor (Fr) landed the Champion S. in 2016. Vadeni has drawn favourable comparisons with that former Rouget stable star and it seems likely that he will attempt to emulate him in the Irish Champion S. come September. 

Alpinista Scales New Heights

As we wait to see if Desert Crown (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) or Westover (GB) (Frankel {GB}) can get the better of their elders in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S. later this month, two serious challengers for that race announced their fine form over the weekend. Alpinista, who has her roots in an Aga Khan family through her fourth dam Alruccaba (Ire) (Crystal Palace {FR}), last met Torquator Tasso (Ger) (Adlerflug {Ger}) when trouncing him by almost three lengths in the Grosser Preis von Berlin last August. That was the first of her three Group 1 wins in Germany last term and, as if to silence those that can be sniffy about German form, Torquator Tasso went on to win the Grosser Preis von Baden followed by the Arc, while Alpinista has now continued her unstoppable run of six victories with a rousing victory over fellow Frankel-sired Baratti (GB) at Saint-Cloud.

“She's in better form than the trainer,” Sir Mark Prescott told the TDN on Monday as the dust settled on Alpinista's first racecourse appearance in 238 days. She had originally been entered for the Coronation Cup but had been withdrawn from that potential engagement with Prescott feeling she wasn't ready for her seasonal resumption. Even ahead of Sunday he wasn't sure that the 5-year-old was quite there.

“Her coat wasn't as good as I would have liked and I felt she was still a gallop short but I was probably wrong on the way she won,” he continued. “I think it's the first time she has really impressed. She's been jolly good at winning races but perhaps not at impressing people. 

“It's a real pleasure to have her. With a filly, everything they put on in black type enhances them tremendously and even if they are beaten it's not a catastrophe because they are remembered for their best. Whereas a colt is remembered for his worst and if you get it wrong you can knock astronomical sums off their value. So I think all trainers would agree with me that training a top-class filly is a lot less pressure than training a top-class colt.”

Prescott knows plenty about top-class fillies, and from this high-achieving Lanwades family in particular. In the yard at his Heath House stand the statues of Alpinista's grand-dam Albanova (GB) (Alzao) and her full-sister Alborada (GB), who between them won five Group 1 races for the stable. Like her grand-daughter, Albanova's trio of top-flight wins were recorded in Germany, while Alborada won back-to-back runnings of the Champion S in its original (and rightful) home of Newmarket. She also won the G2 Nassau S. and G2 Pretty Polly S. of 1998, both of which have subsequently been promoted to Group 1 status. 

Prescott also trained Alpinista's dam, Alwilda (GB) (Hernando {Fr}). He recalled, “Her mother was little but very tough and straightforward, very genuine. She won her Listed race more by application than ability. This one [Alpinista] has plenty of ability. When she shot clear I think everybody among her supporters let out a cheer for her.”

That we did. And now we can hope to see her at Ascot for the King George, with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe her longer-range target. Last year's Arc winner Torquator Tasso clearly needs a bit of warming up from his winter breaks as he has finished sixth in his last two seasonal debuts before clicking into top gear. On Saturday at Hamburg he put his tardy start behind him with an eased-down victory in the G2 Grosser Hansa-Preis.

Peter Michael Endres, representing his owner Karl-Dieter Ellerbracke's Gestut Auenquelle, mapped out a clear plan after the race which takes in the King George, followed by return raids on Baden-Baden and ParisLongchamp for his last two starts ahead of a stud career.

Sammarco: 'The Dream Of My Life'

When Torquator Tasso eventually retires to Gestut Auenquelle he has big shoes to fill if he is to follow the example of the stud's resident stallion Soldier Hollow, who has been champion sire and champion broodmare sire in Germany on multiple occasions. 

It was in the latter role that he featured in the pedigree of the winner of Sunday's G1 Deutsches Derby, Sammarco (Ire) (Camelot {GB}), who is owned and was bred by Helmut von Finck of Gestut Park Wiedingen, who also raced and still owns Soldier Hollow.

Von Finck, who has 15 broodmares at his farm in northern Germany, on Monday reflected on a Classic victory that was the culmination of decades of breeding.

“He's such a good horse, very relaxed at home but such a fighter on the track,” he said of the Peter Schiergen-trained Sammarco. “It has been my dream for 35 years to get the Derby winner and now I have done it as an owner and breeder with a horse from my own stud who is from a mare by my stallion. It is the dream of my life. It fulfils 35 years of work.”

He continued, “Sammarco is really well this morning and lost only a few kilos in the race. He's happy and very relaxed out in the paddock. He has had four starts for three wins and a second, and now he has won the Derby on his fourth start. Everything is perfect.”

The breeder, who will be offering Sammarco's half-brother by Areion (Ger) at the BBAG Yearling Sale in early September, outlined a potential clash with Torquator Tasso at Baden-Baden on the weekend immediately following the sale.

He continued, “I would like to give him a break from racing for eight weeks and then go to the Grosser Preis von Baden. I don't want him to do too much as a 3-year-old as my plan is to race him at four.”

Von Finck currently has five mares in foal to his treble champion sire Soldier Hollow, whose sons Pastorius (Ger) and Weltstar (Ger) are both German Derby winners. Now 22, he currently leads the German broodmares sires' table ahead of another former Auenquelle resident, the late Big Shuffle. 

He added, “Soldier Hollow is also the broodmare sire of Schnell Meister, a Grade I winner in Japan. I'm very proud of him going towards his third championship as broodmare sire. He covered 45 mares last year and I am happy to have five mares in foal to him. He's not the youngest but he is very well and still capable of covering that number.”

Hollie in Hamburg

The offspring of the Gestut Rottgen mare Wellenspiel (Ger) (Sternkoenig {Ire}) have played starring roles on German Derby weekend right from the off, with her first two foals, Windstoss (Ger) (Shirocco {Ger}) and Weltstar (Ger}) (Soldier Hollow {GB}), winning the Derby in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Their younger half-sister Well Disposed (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) has now added more kudos to the family by landing the G3 Mehl-Mulhens Trophy on the Derby undercard. 

Her victory marked the first in the country for Classic-winning jockey Hollie Doyle, who also rode for Gestut Rottgen in the Derby aboard the filly Wagnis (Ger) (Adlerflug {Ger}). She fared less well in this Classic, which suffered a near 30-minute delay while the rails were realigned with the runners at the post, and Doyle was lucky to remain in the saddle when Wagnis stumbled badly on the turn. Winner of the G3 Diana Trial by five lengths on her previous start, the filly regained her composure and ran on to be 11th of the 20 runners. 

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