BAD HARZBURG SPECIAL – SPA TOWN SET FOR RACING SPECTACULAR
Written on 20/07/23 by Darren Thrussell – firstname.lastname@example.org
Although the horse racing festivals at Hamburg and Baden-Baden are internationally probably better known, the Bad Harzburg meeting, known locally as the ‚Harzburger Rennwoche‘ is something not to be missed, with this year’s renewal of the famous festival starting this Saturday.
Nestling in the beautiful Harz mountains that straddle the old border between what was East and West Germany, Bad Harzburg is a spa town which in July, sees hordes of racing fans descend on this incredibly picturesque little town, which this year sees the 143rd racing festival take place. The racecourse itself, some 15 minutes’ walk from the centre of Bad Harzburg, is one of the most attractive you will see, as the action takes place against the beautiful backdrop of the Harz mountains.
Like the racing festivals at Hamburg and Baden-Baden, racing doesn’t take place on each day, with five days racing being held over eight days. With no Group racing at the festival, the 37,000 Euro BBAG yearling sales race is the richest prize on offer during the eight days, however, the meeting also stages four ‚Super Handicap‘ races, each worth a very attractive 17,500 Euros.
However, Bad Harzburg is probably best known for being the premium jump racing course in Germany. With other tracks such as Mannheim, Hoppegarten, Zweibrücken and Krefeld no longer staging jumps racing, only two steeplechases (one of which a ‚Seejagdrennen‘ lake steeplechase) at Quakenbrück in September, and Honzrath with their all weather steeplechase a month later, offer jumps racing alongside Bad Harzburg this year, However, with six jumps races during this year’s festival, it is Bad Harzburg where jumps racing is at its strongest in Germany, with the only Listed Hurdle held in Germany this year taking place on Thursday 27th July. The jumps highlights are however the two ‚Seejagdrennen‘ lake steeplechases, which sees the horses navigate a lake as part of the course, and are staged on the two Sundays during the festival.
This year’s festival starts on Saturday with an eight race card kicking things off. Two 17,500 Euro handicaps share top billing, both of which have attracted big fields of 16 and 14 runners respectively. However, the jumps season finally gets underway in Gerrmany this year with the (deep breath) Preis vom BLH Baustofflabor Harz GmbH und der IMF Ingenieursgesellschaft Meinhard Fulst hurdle race. A field of seven go to post for the rather lengthily named contest over 3400 metres, headed by CABOT CLIFFS. Formerly trained in England by Dan Skelton, for who he won three of his first four starts, Cabot Cliffs joined top handler Christian von der Recke in the spring of last year, and has become something of a star in Germany. Having won his first five races in his adopted homeland (three flat, one hurdle race, one chase), Cabot Cliffs was sent to Italy to contest the Group 1 Gran Corsa Siepi di Merano, coming home an excellent third. Winner of the Swedish Champion Hurdle at Strömsholm last time out, Cabot Cliffs looks to be the one to beat here.
However, this six year old may not have things his own way thanks to the presence in the race of Czech raider DIONIS. Although still a maiden after thirteen races, Dionis improved out of all recognition last time out when a superb second in another Group 1 hurdle race at Merano, the Corsa Siepi dei 4 Anni for four year olds. However, that race was in September, and Dionis has a ten month absence to overcome here.
ORKAN VON MARLOW was third behind Cabot Cliffs in last month’s Swedish Champion Hurdle, but was a distance behind the winner, whilst stablemate of Cabot Cliffs VINTAGE VALLEY makes his debut for Christian von der Recke here, having landed a hurdle race by seventeen lengths at Wetherby in October for trainer Donald McCain.
The three remaining runners all make their jump debuts here. ELEGANT FIGHTER won three from four races last year, but didn’t seem to be at home on the unique beach course at Cuxhaven, finishing fourth of the five runners. The final two runners represent owner-trainer Janine Penzel, however SÜDWIND and WOLLENBERG have both been very disappointing on the flat, and look unlikely to figure here.
Sunday sees the famous Preis der Stadtwerke Bad Harzburg Seejagdrennen lake race, where a trio of Christian von der Recke-trained English imports take on lake race specialist WUTZELMANN, winners of both Seejagdrennen at the Bad Harzburg festival last year. Third in last month’s Swedish Grand National at Strömsholm. Wutzelmann, who will be ridden as he was in this race last year by Irish jockey Dylan Robinson, looks the one to beat here, even at the age of thirteen.
MASTER DEBONAIR was the highest rated of the von der Recke trio on official British ratings. After a superb start to his career, in which he beat subsequent triple Group 1 jumps winner Thyme Hill in a Listed bumper race at Cheltenham in November 2018 when trained by Colin Tizzard, Master Debonair landed a Group 2 hurdle at Ascot in December 2019, but hasn’t visited the winner’s enclosure since, having been pulled up in a Plumpton handicap hurdle for Welsh trainer Christian Williams last time out.
Like Master Debonair, EVANDER was successful at the beginning of his career, winning an Irish point to point on debut back in April 2019. However, after finishing in the four in all ten of his completed races for trainer Oliver Greenall between 2019 and 2021, Evander was off the track for two years, only reappearing in February this year. Despite having finished only once in five races this season in England, Evander is two from two for his new trainer, winning a steeplechase at Strömsholm in Sweden last month before landing a flat race at Zweibrücken by an impressive eight lengths last week, and could well be the pick of von der Recke’s trio.
The von der Recke trio is completed by GUIRI who actually started his career in Germany as a smart flat performer, and indeed ran in the 2018 German Derby, finishing ninth. A move to Ireland beckoned, where Guiri landed a 25 runner handicap hurdle at Punchestown for trainer Jessica Harrington. However, having been pulled up in two of his five races and finishing last in the other three after joining English trainer Ben Haslam, Guiri is a another who will need to return to his best to figure on Sunday.
Saturday’s raceday is being broadcast LIVE on YouTube at the following link:
The first race starts at 14:00 CET / 1:00 pm UK time, the hurdle race is due off at 18:20 CET / 5:20 pm UK time, and a racecard can be found here:
Sunday’s raceday is being broadcast LIVE on YouTube at the following link:
The first race starts at 14:20 CET / 1:20 pm UK time, the Seejagdrennen is due off at 18:15 CET / 5:15 pm UK time, and a racecard can be found here:
Photo: Action from the 2019 Seejagdrennen lake race at Bad Harzburg. The first of this year’s Seejagdrennen takes place this Sunday (Photo copyright Stefanie Ihlenburg / Zwischen den Flaggen / Anglo German Racing).