This could be a very big weekend for the German broodmare Indigo Girl, with two of her sons chasing important prizes, though their respective targets could hardly be more different. On Saturday, Irving is likely to start favourite for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, while twenty-fours later his younger sibling Ivanhowe contests the Japan Cup.
Irving’s racing career didn’t begin until he was a four-year-old but the gelded son of Singspiel went on to win four of his six starts on the flat in Germany and France in the colours of his breeders Gestüt Schlenderhan. On joining Paul Nicholls, he then won his first four starts over hurdles in the 2013/14 season, including Grade 2 novice events at Ascot and Kempton, before finishing only ninth when starting joint-favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Making his reappearance in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton in early November, Irving looked a big danger when falling at the final hurdle, leaving the race to Purple Bay whom he could meet again on Saturday.
Like Irving, the two-years-younger Ivanhowe is by a son of In The Wings, namely Soldier Hollow. Ivanhowe’s career made an earlier start than Irving’s, and after one run as a two-year-old he won his first two starts at three, including the Group 2 Oppenheim-Union-Rennen at Cologne, Germany’s most important Derby trial. As a result, Ivanhowe was made favourite for the Deutsches Derby but could finish only eighth at Hamburg and wasn’t seen out again until May of this year. His successful reappearance back at Cologne in the Group 2 Gerling-Preis got his career back on track, and he has since proved better than ever with Group 1 successes in recent months in the Grosser Preis von Baden and Grosser Preis von Bayern. At Baden-Baden he had two German Derby winners behind him, not only Lucky Speed who’d beaten him at Hamburg as a three-year-old, but also the hitherto unbeaten Sea The Moon who had been so impressive when winning the latest renewal of that race. The subsequently retired Sea The Moon had been ante-post favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at the time, but Ivanhowe beat only two home in a field of twenty when contesting the Arc himself.
Ivanhowe faces much the stiffer task of the two siblings in a race which Irving’s sire won in 1996, though as the winner of the Grosser Preis von Baden, he would be eligible for a bonus if finishing in any of the top three places in addition to the regular prize money.
Indigo Girl ran only twice but after a winning debut at Cologne she finished third in the Preis der Diana, the German Oaks, to another Schlenderhan filly, her distant relative Iota. Indigo Girl’s grandam Indian Pearl was second in the same race, while her great grandam Indra won it in 1965.
[Image of Tokyo Racecourse courtesy of Goki]