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)


  1. I'm going with Freaky Flip and the Wiener horse. Let me know how I do!

  2. Malcer,

    Nice preview....keep us posted on the result....i don't get the switch to Filip on Wiener Walzer, who is supposed to go to the Arc after this... always pays to get news from the locals, because i didn't realize the takeout at baden-baden, and how bad the finances were at the track

  3. Sorry Geno, but I was spot-on! (that and my never-in-doubt "Best European" title at the Toga Party, I'm clearly on a roll)


    1. Getaway
    (sat just off the pace; took the lead early in the stretch and held on, won safely without being pressed; workmanlike, but on a very high level; he's a "complicated character, but in great shape and has a realistic chance in the Arc" according to Hirschberger)

    2. Eastern Anthem
    (as always: back of the pack, took quite some time to get rolling and was the fastest one over the last furlong, but too far behind to threaten the winner; he doesn't have that scary burst we've seen from Goldikova or Delegator lately, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the Prix Royal-Oak, he needs a few furlongs more)

    3. Youmzain
    (good trip, always present but never accelerated to a level where he posed a threat; may have needed this start)

    4. Wiener Walzer
    (set a moderate pace but couldn't find more over the last two furlongs; could probably use a short layoff, but I wouldn't entirely rule him out for the fall)

    Video will be posted when/if available

    Sid: It's just a temporary switch, as Johansson was retained by his Swedish home stable (odd, but obviously that's still his first priority).

    The takeout is 30% for all German tracks, although "slightly more than 20" or "around 25" are sometimes mentioned. They're very secretive about it, but the tax is 16 1/3 and according to my own calculations, takeout seems to be 30% for every Win pool. I'm not sure how they get to the lower numbers, as exotics takeouts are definitely not lower.

  4. Just to be sure:
    There are official sources for the 30% number too, it's just that the unofficial statements sometimes contradict this and I could never find a detailed source for the takeouts per pool. I strongly assume it's a flatrate (or highrate, in this case).

    The retained jockey for Ullmann was and is Adrie de Vries (he will be next season too), it's just that he chose other mounts than WW in all of those races. Johansson was a frequently used jockey for Schlenderhan when it was owned by Ullmann's mother, but it remains to be seen if he keeps a second-jockey position now that the son directs both lots.

  5. Malcer,

    Awesome piece of handicapping to nail the exacta.