It was obvious really. It often is after the race and if we had looked deeply enough, we should have found the clue, writes Tony Stafford. Anyway, here we go. Last year Barney Roy won the race in question, one of four Group 1 wins among eight career victories. The previous year Ghaiyyath, the highest-rated horse in the world during the 2020 season, was successful.
Go back then to 2013 when Novellist, already the King George hero at Ascot two months earlier, picked up the prize, his fifth consecutive victory before heading off to stud in Japan. A son of the great German stamina influence Monsun, the sequence began for him after a fourth behind another German star in Danedream, the 2011 and 2012 winner of our race. She sandwiched in not only her 2011 easy Arc win but also her own King George at the expense of Nathaniel (and Novellist) at Ascot in July 2012.
The Grosser Preis von Baden, run at the spa town of Baden-Baden in South-West Germany has a historic roll-call of celebrated winners, the latest of them a month ago being Torquator Tasso. So little did the betting public, the media, writers on racing and ITV experts – thanks for showing it by the way – give credence to his chance in the race of the season in terms of class, that nobody bothered to mention him.
Well actually ITV did, but only in regard that he shared the same recently deceased German sire as Alenquer, William Haggas’ three-year-old who had beaten Derby winner Adayar, one of yesterday’s favourites for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the Sandown Classic Trial. That stallion was Adlerflug, winner in his racing days of the German Derby at Hamburg and sire additionally of In Swoop, runner-up to Sotsass in the 2020 Arc.
After eight winners in a single day on Saturday the Haggas stable had to be hopeful and that was rider Tom Marquand’s very cheerful pre-race assessment. But his bullish expectation that testing ground would be right up his colt’s autobahn did not materialise, Tom afterwards reporting the horse hated it.
When is heavy ground not heavy? The ITV coverage, enjoyable as it was, compared the time of the opening Group 1 fillies’ race with last year’s and declared it faster ground than in 2020. They repeated the truism after the big race, again a second quicker, when the reality was that it was still desperate going.
They neglected to remind their viewers that the 2020 Arc was the slowest this century. The way this Arc was run, with Adayar refusing to settle and making much of the running, set him up for the stronger stayers coming home. He was the assumed Godolphin number one (although Charlie Appleby suggested that on the ground Hurricane Lane might prove the stronger) and so it proved.
For a while it looked like Hurricane Lane and then Tarnawa would secure the prize but the dogged Torquator Tasso, on the outside of that pair having started his run alongside and soon moving ahead of Snowfall and Ryan Moore, kept plugging away.
It was with a mixture of disbelief and celebration that Richard Hoiles, ITV’s highly accomplished commentator, told us of possibly the biggest shock in Arc history, and the 72-1 Pari-Mutuel return is certainly right up there.
I love watching races right up to the line and at that point the German horse, ridden very calmly by his 34-year-old jockey Rene Piechulek, was actually drawing away from a high-class and tough Irish five-year-old mare and the St Leger winner, a rare feat of stamina. Then there was quite a gap to Adayar, a brave fourth in the circumstances, with Sealiway, runner-up to St Mark’s Basilica in the French Derby in June, next in fifth and Snowfall sixth.
As the exultant female assistant trainer told Matt Chapman, on his best form (and behaviour) in that and several other interviews, Marcel Weiss, who runs the stable of Gestut Auenquelle quite close to Cologne, has held his licence for only two years having been the assistant for the 70-horse string for two decades.
Gestut Auenquelle is a stallion station, standing the highest-priced sire in his country in Soldier Hollow (€30k this year) and also has Best Solution, the first of three consecutive Godolphin winners of the Grosser Preis von Baden in 2018, at the farm.
No doubt Torquator Tasso is destined for that location when he retires. His class has been evident from early as a three-year-old for after winning his maiden at Cologne he stepped up to be a close second to In Swoop in a one-two Adlerflug finish to last year’s German Derby. In 2021 he has progressed rapidly, avenging a narrow defeat by the Camelot filly Sunny Queen in an autumn Group 1 to the tune of five lengths when dominating a Hamburg Group 2 this summer.
After yesterday’s race the very astute Kevin Blake had the answer to the amazing SP, saying it was the defeat by Sir Mark Prescott’s filly Alpinista in the Grosser Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten which preceded his Baden-Baden success that threw everyone off the scent.
It possibly did, but Sir Mark collected another German Group 1 preis with Alpinista at Cologne last weekend, while third-placed Walton Street was hardly letting the side (or the form) down when making a cakewalk of the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine under Frankie Dettori two weeks ago.
Another easy to check labour I enjoy is trying to find reasons why a horse bred a certain way might do what he does. Before that minor investigation I had never heard of another German runner that enjoyed a lot of success on the track and subsequently became a stallion.
He is called Toylsome and was foaled in 1999. He is a son of the talented UK sprint/mile stallion Cadeaux Genereux and was sold as a yearling at Tatts for 320,000gns to the bid of German International Bloodstock. His daughter Tijuana did nothing on the track but is the mother of Torquator Tasso.
The purchasers could hardly complain as he won 16 of 36 races, so one for every 20k he cost. Crucially, the last of them came on his penultimate start 14 years ago to the day and on the same Parisian racetrack that his grandson chose for his day of greatness. The race was the 2007 Group 1 Prix de la Foret and among the opposition that day were the star French sprinter/miler Marchand D’Or (in third) as well as US Ranger, Dutch Art, Jeremy, Lingari, Arc winner Found’s dam Red Evie, and Red Clubs.
No wonder he started at 100/1 for his only victory at the top level in an unexpected performance that was something of a portent for yesterday’s amazing events.
There are many other things we could talk about from an exciting couple of days, but I will restrict myself to two. It was satisfying for his owners that Trueshan was able at last to have the shot at Stradivarius in the Prix Du Cadran on Saturday on his terms. He possibly could have been meeting the veteran and multiple champion as that one starts to feel his age, but Trueshan’s penchant for heavy ground was probably the bigger factor. I doubt Alan King would pit Trueshan against Bjorn Neilsen’s valiant performer on firm ground if the Gosden horse stays in training as an eight-year-old.
He is comfortably past £3 million in earnings and even in defeat got a nice top-up on Saturday – easier than topping up the horsebox fuel tank no doubt. As a son of Sea The Stars there is no reason why he would not make a decent stallion.
The other great result on the same afternoon was Saffron Beach’s emphatic all-the-way success in the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket where she avenged her 1,000 Guineas defeat by the tough Mother Earth.
This was a top-class renewal and once William Buick decided to make the running there was never a time when the red and white colours of Lucy Sangster and James Wigan, augmented at the end of last year by Lucy’s son Ollie, looked likely to be denied.
Unbeaten at two, Saffron Beach was giving Lucy’s step-sister Jane Chapple-Hyam her first Group 1 win as a trainer almost a decade after Mull of Killough, owned by Invictus, a syndicate headed up by two of the younger Sangster step-nephews won three Group 3 races and a Listed up the same Rowley Mile.
Jane Chapple-Hyam stands on 25 wins for the season and not far short of half a million in prizemoney, a figure which thanks to Saffron Beach’s exploits is almost double her previous highest. She was already looking forward before Saturday’s race to the possible programme for the daughter of New Bay next year. Judged on Saturday, there is plenty more celebrating to come.
There’s also a feast of top-class racing in prospect during the rest of the month with the Future Stars (or is it Champions) meeting at Newmarket next week when the Dewhurst Stakes is the top attraction. Handicap fans will be just as interested in the Cesarewitch the market on which I have been monitoring for any movement in Burning Victory’s price.
I must report though that I heard some alarming news last week. It was that Ruby Walsh, still a big factor in the Mullins yard, reckons M C Muldoon, narrowly denied in the Ascot Stakes by 50-1 shot Reshoun, has improved out of all recognition. If that’s correct, then 6-1 isn’t a bad price. But then it’s not 72-1 is it? Let’s hope we see more of Torquator Tasso, he’s a star!