08/30/2001 11:00PM

Old-fashioned methods serve German racing well


The victory of Silvano in the Arlington Million two weeks ago may have surprised some people who routinely disparage German racing, but the industry in Germany has been gaining strength steadily during the last decade.

While the Arabs have been empire-building in Britain, and while John Magnier and Michael Tabor have been cornering the market in Ireland, Germany has been quietly going about its business in relative obscurity, and have now begun to make an impact on the international scene.

One reason for their success is the time-honored practice of keeping it in the family. While the rest of the world has shown almost no interest in German bloodstock, German families with historic interests in racing have been left to their own devices in establishing racing and breeding dynasties.

Baron Georg von Ullman, Gestut Ittlingen, Gestut Schlenderhan, and Gestut Fahrhof (the owner-breeders of Silvano), are just four of the family held organizations that have specialaized in racing their homebreds.

Their success mirrors that of the once-great American racing families like the Mellons, the Whitneys, and the Vanderbilts, who were unable to withstand the passage of time as succeeding generations showed less and less interest in the sport.

That interest, while never as widespread as in the United States, never died out in Germany, not during the Nazi era, nor during the Communist period in the Eastern half of the country.

Refusing to buckle under to the fashionable commercial breeding market, Germany was establishing solid foundations in the 1980's as stallions like Konigsstuhl and Surumu paved the way for future champions. Konigsstuhl, the German Triple Crown winner in 1979, when the classics were still restricted to German-breds, was champion sire three times. Surumu, the 1977 German Derby winner, has been even more predominant, leading the sire lists six times between 1985 and 1992. He has also been Germany's leading broodmare sire six times since 1991.

Konigsstuhl's best son, Monsun, is out of a mare by Surumu. A three-time Group 1 winner, he was Germany's leading sire last year with his first crop of 3-year-olds, led by German Derby and Grosser Preis von Baden winner, Samum.

Top racehorse and sire

Acatenango is Surumu's most important son to date. A two-time winner of the Grosser Preis von Baden, he also won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and was the champion sire in Germany in four times between 1993 and 1999. He can count among his numerous stakes winners Lando, the first German horse to win the Japan Cup, and Borgia, a filly who beat colts in the German Derby, the Grosser Preis von Baden, and the Hong Kong Vase, in addition to narrowly missing in the 1997 Breeders' Cup Turf.

Not that German owners never venture out into the great wide world in search of new bloodlines. The aptly named Germany, winner of the German Derby and the Grosser Preis von Baden in 1995, is a Kentucky-bred by Trempolino. Two-time Grosser Preis von Baden winner Tiger Hill is an Irish-bred son of Danehill, while Elle Danzig, the winner of 11 group races in Germany and Italy, is by the Danzig stallion Roi Danzig.

The German breeding industry has also begun to produce a number of good horses at distances shorter than a mile and a half.

Proudwings is a case in point. A German-bred daughter of the British-bred stallion Dashing Blade, she has been developed by Ralf Suerland into arguably the best miler in Europe this year. The 5-year-old mare has beaten her own sex in the Group 2 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, and beat colts in the Group 2 Prix du Muguet at Saint-Cloud. She crossed the line first in the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville last week, beating Vahorimix, Noverre, and Banks Hill, but was disqaulified for drifting over on the latter two. She might, however, reclaim the prize, as Suerland has lodged an appeal with France-Galop that will be heard on Wednesday.

Drug-free stallions

Another factor in the steady rise of German racing cannot be underestimated: The German Jockey Club forbids any horse who has ever raced with Lasix or Bute to stand in Germany.

On Sunday, Andreas Wohler will send out his Acatenango colt Sabiango, a full brother to Silvano, as the favorite in the Grosser Preis von Baden. On the Baden-Baden backstretch there is a quaint little church, alongside of which lies the body of Wohler's father, Adolf, the man who holds the record for having trained the most winners of the German Derby.

The spirit of the the father will surely be smiling if the son can produce another in a growing list of successful homebred products with credentials that can stand up to the highest international standards.