Monday, 7 September 2009

GP von Baden Video, Result and Trivia

As promised, here's the video for yesterday's Grosser Preis von Baden, which in my opinion lived up to the hype.

To the extent that being caught on the line with Adlerflug in the last two editions can be considered a spell, trainer Jens Hirschberger has lifted it. The private trainer for Gestüt Schlenderhan* (which was primarily owned by Baronin Karin von Ullmann and is fully-owned by her son Georg after the grand lady of the German Turf passed away this spring, effectively merging the operations of both) needed all of three years to win his first GP, a long time considering he scored his first Derby within the first few months on the job.
The son of veteran trainer Peter Hirschberger, who runs a low-key (but well-respected) operation at Leipzig, Jens made a name for himself first as a moderately successful jockey, then working as a jockey manager, feed expert and assistant trainer for the likes of Andreas Schütz.

Another one to feel some vindication yesterday was jockey Adrie de Vries. Hirschberger's retained jockey (the kind of guy one likes to root for) picked the wrong mount in both the Derby and Rheinland-Pokal, and couldn't be aboard Getaway for the horse's G1 Deutschland-Preis victory either because of a prior commitment. Luckily, with the kind of quality in Hirschberger's barn, you get a fourth shot.

The Racing Post result sheet can be found here (actually my live/from memory recap was good enough, only I didn't fully notice that Getaway was actually driving away over the last furlong, which makes his performance all the more impressive)

*Did You Know: Schlenderhan was founded in 1869, the same year the first German Derby was run, and leads the way with no less than 18 blue riband wins.

Also, Did You Know that the term "Did You Know" is copyrighted. Oops!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

GP von Baden Preview

Why am I posting a preview for a race none of my readers (with the possible exception of Sid Fernando) cares about when I don’t even have a hot pick? To tell you the truth, I can’t fully explain it. It’s partly one of those ideas you get when returning home at six in the morning on a Sunday and aren’t even drunk, but I prefer to explain it with the joy of seeing how Germany’s most meaningful horse race has rebounded from three so-so editions with a real looker.

Baden-Baden (the name sounds just as silly in German, btw) can use it too, as the Internationaler Club is currently in bankruptcy proceedings and in dire need of a sponsor. The race will even get all of a 15-minute nationwide broadcasting slot as part of the public service’s afternoon sports lineup (which would have gone without further mention less than a decade ago, but now is enough to spawn a front page article in the racing paper). Update: burned by sloppy fact-checking (again!). Turns out the 15-minute live slot was actually a 5-minute bit later this afternoon (which would have been disappointing less than a decade ago, but now is seen as "a positive signal" by the Sport-Welt, which it actually is compared to the Derby's 11 PM slot on a regional broadcasting/cable channel).

On to the crystal ball...

Grosser Preis von Baden; 2400m; 250.000€; Group 1 for 3-y-o’s and up; 16:45 CET (1045 EST)

#1 Adelar – not very consistent, but even his best forms (such as a close second in the G2 Prix Gontaut-Biron last out) aren’t even close to winning this race

#2 Eastern Anthem – Godolphin’s Dubai Sheema Classic winner showed a nice late burst to finish third in the G1 Rheinland-Pokal, but still 2 ½ lengths behind #7 and #3; Dubai-owned challengers are always worthy of consideration for the GP though, after all Mo The Monetarily Magnificent Monarch’s Darley and Godolphin horses have won every edition of this race from 2001 to 2005 (Morshdi, Marienbard, Mamool, and twice Warrsan); Mo let his opposition take a breath for the last three years - now he's back; E.A. switches from Ajtebi to Dettori, and Flyin’ Frankie’s business trips to Germany have been nothing but frustrating this season (as were most of Godolphin’s)

#3 Getaway – lost a stretch battle of epic proportions when beaten a short head by stable companion Wiener Walzer in the Rheinland-Pokal (video below), but is once again the retained jockey’s choice. Trainer Jens Hirschberger is riding a modest 39.66% win percentage for the season being the private trainer for Georg Baron von Ullmann, who campaigns Getaway under his own silks (a mere 33.3%) and also inherited Wiener Walzer’s Gestüt Schlenderhan (a whopping 43.2%); he’s giving a kilo less to his younger companion this time and belongs into every consideration

#4 Kamsin – defending champion and last year’s Derby winner, this one hasn’t gotten up to his level this year, being decisively beaten by Getaway in his last two starts; hard to imagine a reversal, though really soft ground could go a long way.

#5 Youmzain – two-time Arc runner-up didn’t show his class when 4th in the Sheema Classic, was subsequently beaten by a nose in the G1 Coronation Cup at Epsom (a form which hasn’t held up too well, though) and finished a disappointing third in the G1 Grand-Prix de Saint-Cloud last time; still, he seems to be aimed at the Arc again and could bounce back today; Owner Jaber Abdullah also isn’t a stranger to the Grand-Prix’s trophy, having won the 1995 edition with the fittingly-named colt Germany; not sure how to interpret the choice of Kieren Fallon as a jockey

#6 Sordino – sporting one win in four lifetime starts, the 29/1 Derby runner-up came flying from far behind in every one of those starts and even has a trip excuse or two for his Hamburg performance; his trainer Waldemar Hickst recently enhanced his International prominence by winning the Ballston Spa with rather nondescript filly Salve Germania and seems to have his lot in prime condition, but a 55/10 (9/2) ML is a bit over the top; I would have preferred to see this horse at Doncaster next weekend, he absolutely strikes me as a St. Leger candidate; Update: scratched (very unfortunately, as I managed to get an incredible 16.5/1 early-market bet on him; some unique stellar constellation, and a short-lived one, obviously

#7 Wiener Walzer – If the ground is good enough and he doesn’t get scratched, the victor of the Derby as well as the above-mentioned stretch battle at Cologne may well have to make it all once again, which wouldn’t be the worst of prospects; still, he may be up for a slight setback after three hard-fought victories in as many months, adds a further kilo and switches jockeys from Fredrik Johansson to Filip Minarik, which I don’t like because Freaky Filip can be a great jockey, but is always one for a major slip in judgement, on and off the course.

(Replay of the G1 Rheinland-Pokal, August 16)

Straight Win/Place betting for this race will be available on betfair. Unfortunately that means you can’t play the exotics, but I couldn’t confidently encourage you to play into Germany’s 30% takeout tote anyway (and now you know why Baden-Baden is bankrupt; 70% handle reduction nationwide over the last decade, and every point of it earned!)

While Saratoga is only nicknamed the “Graveyard of Champions”, the Baden Grand-Prix really has been a chalk-killer: no favorite has won it since 2000’s Samum. From 2001 to 2005 (the Sheikh Mo era) no fav even finished on the board. So, statistically, this race spells trouble for either Getaway or Wiener Walzer (both 5/2 ML), while Eastern Anthem could be another ace up Mohammed’s sleeve.

I’m taking a stand against Wiener Walzer and Youmzain (risky, but you gotta start somewhere in a wide-open field). I hope Youmzain, who is coming out of a layoff after he seemed a little tired, is primarily prepping for a big effort in the Arc, there are a couple of hints in that direction (and he's done it once before, when he finished 4th at Baden-Baden, then second to Dylan Thomas in the 2007 Arc).

Which leaves Getaway as my favorite and Eastern Anthem as a value bet (if available for 11/1+). If the pace scenario set up right for him Sordino may be worth the price.

(Image: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger)