Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bill and Bri's Excellent Adventure

-- Bill Oppenheim

If you’ve heard of Galileo, Sea The Stars, and Animal Kingdom you know something about the influence of German pedigrees at the very top tier of the thoroughbred business. They punch so far above their weight given the numbers of foals they breed (at least six states in the U.S. will produce more foals than Germany’s estimated 1,000 in 2011) that Germany should rightfully be considered one of a ‘big four’ countries of European breeding, even though their foal crops are a fraction of the size of the crops produced in Ireland, Britain, and France.

Among the places German-breds have done well is North America; three German-breds have already won Graded Stakes in North America this year, plus the dam of this year’s GI Kentucky Derby winner is German-bred. So when the Breeders’ Cup designed the new International Stallion Nomination program (the stallion owner pays 50% of a stud fee, all foals from that crop automatically nominated) in an effort to have more non-North American-bred foals nominated to the Breeders’ Cup, it was important to try and make sure the message got through to any group of breeders who might be supplying top-class horses for the Breeders’ Cup’s championship races.

The Breeders’ Cup has appointed field representatives throughout the world to explain the new program to stallion managers and breeders, including our own Brianne Stanley in Ireland. As someone who had worked on the program, and hopefully understood it well enough to explain it, we hoped that between us we could explain the background and the program, and answer questions about it, to a sector of the breeding industry we would certainly want to include in the program if we could.

Bill and Fahrhof’s Daniel Krueger.
The view behind is the ‘Hollywood’ sign of the village of
Iffezheim, where the racecourse is located,
with the Black Forest in the background.
So, last weekend, Brianne came from Ireland, and I came from Scotland, and we met up in Baden-Baden, in the southwest of Germany, literally just a few miles from the French border and the French city of Strasbourg, in Alsace. There is a sort of Spring Festival of racing, which began with two days of racing last weekend and continues through next weekend, with an auction of 2-year-olds and Horses of Racing Age on the sales grounds of the auction company, BBAG, adjacent to the racetrack, this coming Friday, June 3. We came for the racing last Saturday and Sunday, were guests at the industry’s Awards dinner at the racecourse on Saturday night, and made a presentation to stallion owners and breeders before the races on Sunday.

In a nutshell, the place is beautiful – the words ‘clean’ and ‘efficient’ come to mind; the people are fantastic – the words ‘friendly’, ‘polite’, and ‘helpful’ come to mind; and the area has a great atmosphere. Having arrived in Germany for the first time in my entire 61 ¾ years, I was told by several people that I had landed up in the right place, and it’s true. Brianne and I both remarked how much the atmosphere felt like Deauville – a resort, though not a seaside resort like Deauville. One big advantage they have over Deauville is the purpose-built sales grounds, done just 12 years ago, with plenty of space and functionality.

I hope the German stallion owners and breeders felt they had a good explanation of the new Breeders’ Cup program, and I hope many of them will sign up to the program. For our part, I think Bri and I both felt we could not have been shown better hospitality; could not have had better weather (though, like France and southern England, they have had a drought the last two months and desperately need rain); and, really, could not have been more impressed.

The BBAG yearling sale is scheduled for September 2-3, during a summer racing and sales festival which runs from August 27 – September 4. If you like to go to places like Saratoga (also a resort not on the seaside) for the sales and racing; if you like Del Mar for the racing; if you like Deauville for the sales and racing, I’ll bet you’ll like Baden-Baden for the sales and racing, too. It may have taken me an awfully long time to discover Baden-Baden and Germany for myself, but, having discovered it now, you can bet it won’t be long before my team tries very hard to get back there.

Bill, TDN’s Christa Riebel, and BBAG’s Kalus Eulenberger,
in front of the BBAG Sales Pavilion
We have many, many people to thank – far more than I would be able to list here. First and foremost we wish to thank Dr. Andreas Jacobs, best known as the Master of Gestut Fahrhof, his family’s third-generation stud, which received the award as Germany’s leading breeder in 2010. Andreas is also involved in his family’s Newsells Park Stud in England, founded by his late father, Klaus Jacobs, and now one of the leading commercial nurseries in Europe; and Maine Chance Farm in South Africa, where he stands the 2001 G1 Arlington Million winner and now very successful sire, Silvano. Dr. Jacobs has a number of other business interests, including as president of the company which leased the Baden-Baden racetrack when it went into bankruptcy in late 2009. He was a very busy guy all weekend, and we’re very grateful to him for facilitating our trip and spending more time with us than he probably had to spend.

Long day over: Bri and Klaus Eulenberger sample
the local brew, Hatz. We’re not sure what
Bill was drinking there.
Second on our all-star German hit parade is Fahrhof’s marketing manager, Daniel Krueger, who also works for the German Owners and Breeders Association. Daniel did absolutely double-time in the legwork department, and made sure everything ran like clockwork. He goes right to the top of our upcoming list of European “under-40’s” movers and shakers in the horse business. Daniel, we cannot thank you enough, we wouldn’t have known whether to turn right or left without your help. You are a star. Thanks also to the Baden-Baden racetrack team, including new racetrack GM, Dr. Benedict (Ben) Forndran, who came over from France’s PMU and is one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever spoken with about Tote systems in today’s era; Andre Litt, who organizes all the cars and drivers for the racetrack; and young Sebastian Merkel (no relation to the German Chancellor), who made sure we got where we needed to be when we needed to be there. Thanks also to TDN’s own Christa Riebel, who did the translating for us at our meeting on Sunday; and to BBAG’s MD, Carola Ortlieb, and Assistant Manager, Klaus Eulenberger, another who makes our Europe 'Forty Under Forty' list. To all y'all, many thanks for all your help, and we hope to see you again soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Bill,

was a pleasure to have u here in Germany!!!

All the best with your work!!

Hope to see u again!

Greets the chauffeurs from Baden Racing