The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities was not alone in recently releasing a list of ratings for its best horses of 2015. For the first time, a set of unified ratings were compiled for the best horses that competed in the countries of Central Europe in 2015, specifically in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
Topping the ratings (expressed in pounds) on 98 was the seven-year-old Czech-trained entire Meandre. The French-bred son of the Grand Prix de Paris winner Slickly won that same race himself (albeit over another two furlongs) in 2011 when trained by Andre Fabre for his breeders the Rothschild Family. At four he went on to win two more Group 1 contests, the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and Grosser Preis von Berlin. Having left France for the Czech Republic, he was successful in Group 1 company in Germany again aged five in the Preis von Europa at Cologne. As well as contesting the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe three times (best placing when sixth to Danedream as a three-year-old), Meandre has competed at three Dubai Carnivals, finishing sixth to Animal Kingdom in the 2013 Dubai World Cup. This is a far cry from the sort of races the vast majority of Central Europe’s horses will have contested.
Meandre’s most recent success came at Prague’s Velka Chuchle racecourse in the Czech Republic in September when he beat another leading Czech horse Autor (95) in the Velka Cena Ceskeho Turfu (Czech Grand Prix) over a mile and a half. The Irish-bred Autor went on to gain the only pattern-race win of the year for a Central European-trained horse when successful in the Group 3 St Leger Italiano at Milan from a field that included rivals from Britain, France and Germany as well as Italy. Autor is about as stoutly-bred as they come, by Derby winner Authorised out of an unraced Kahyasi mare, herself out of the Darshaan mare Khalafiya who won the Meld Stakes at the Curragh over a mile and a half.
Another leading Czech-trained stayer was the French-bred gelding Trip To Rhodos (93), a son of Arc winner Rail Link, who performed well in his native country, finishing fourth in the Prix du Cadran as well as second in the listed Prix du Carrousel at Maisons-Laffitte and winning another listed contest at Baden-Baden in September. His domestic win came in the Velka Cena Slovenska (Slovak Grand Prix) at Bratislava.
The leading three-year-old in the rankings, German-bred Dashing Home (94), by Dewhurst Stakes winner Dashing Blade, was also trained in the Czech Republic where he took the European Jockey’s Cup Million at Prague over seven furlongs. However, perhaps the most interesting three-year-old in Central Europe was the unbeaten Polish-trained colt Va Bank (93). The son of Archipenko, who cost just €4,500 as a yearling at Tattersalls Ireland, is out of an unraced half-sister to the dam of the dual King’s Stand Stakes winner Equiano. Va Bank’s eight wins included the Polish Triple Crown and an impressive win in the Wielka Warszawska, Poland’s big all-aged contest over thirteen furlongs.
While all the leading performers were bred in western Europe, the top-rated horse actually bred in one of the Central European countries was Sanok (92), a three-year-old colt trained in the Czech Republic – he won the Czech St Leger – but bred in Poland. His sire Jape (a son of Alleged and Canadian champion Northern Blossom, and winner of the St Leger Italiano) was champion sire several times in Poland. Jape’s other good horses in Poland have included Galileo who was sold to go jumping in Britain where he won the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Meanwhile, the top-rated Czech-bred horse in the rankings was the four-year-old gelding Aztek (89) who finished third behind Meandre and Autor in the Czech Grand Prix. He too has an interesting sire in Moonjaz who didn’t, however, live up to his classic breeding for Shadwell, by Nashwan out of their 1000 Guineas winner Harayir.
While Hungary was unable to boast a horse bred in that country among the top fifty in the rankings, Central Europe’s best filly or mare was trained there. That was six-year-old Separate Opinion, a daughter of the German-bred Derby Italiano winner Osorio and the tremendously tough British-trained mare Diamond White whose biggest win in a career spanning 64 races came in the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp. Separate Opinion was good enough to win a listed race at Munich in 2014 but she has a formidable record in recent seasons in Hungary in the autumn.
For the fourth year running, she won the Grof Szechenyi Istvan Emlekverseny (Count Istvan Szechenyi Memorial) over a mile and a quarter as well as easily repeating her previous year’s success in the Kincsem Dij over a mile and a half. That race – and, indeed, Budapest’s racecourse Kincsem Park – takes its name from Hungary’s equine icon of the nineteenth century who was unbeaten in 54 races. Most of Kincsem’s wins came in Central Europe, but her other victories included the Goodwood Cup, the Grand Prix de Deauville and three editions of the Grosser Preis von Baden.
[Image of Meandre courtesy of http://www.velka-chucle.cz]