The Hamburg Derby Meeting 2010 got off the mark yesterday in a rather hot mood, with temperatures rising well above 35 degrees celsius. Beast and man alike suffered under a relentless sun, and attendance was nearer 5.000 than 10.000. Handle was down considerably, as was to be expected. As the weather forecast predicts rain on a daily shifting basis from Saturday to Sunday to Monday and now probably Tuesday or Wednesday, this may be wishful thinking anyhow. Prepare for everything, as the Aussies say, and a smart lady from down under proved her wisdom by sporting a handheld battery driven fan. One could have sold hundreds of these little gadgets instead of the Borsalinos that looked really great but were priced quite optimistically at € 170,- which proved too much for most of the customers. Anyhow, the going was in splendid condition, which is borne out by the fact that many horses with a disliking of firm ground that ran well to form. The HRC have watered all through the night until 6 am for a considerable time, and that should ensure that conditions stay fair and even throughout the meeting.
The sporting highlight was the Franz Günther v. Gärtner Memorial, a Grade III race for three years and older horses over the mile. The race commemorates the longtime chairman of the HRC and the German Racing Association, who has been one of the alltime most generous sponsors of this sport. Fittingly, the sport has paid back as v. Gärtner has been racing three individual Derby winners, Samum, Schiaparelli, and Kamsin. The race was won by Earl of Fire, who took the race already in 2009. Earl of Fire won more or less gate to wire, but the race was heavily marred by a slipping saddle of Kite Hunter, who in the early stages unseated his raider Steffi Hofer who went down heavily and suffered a broken collar bone and a concussion. Steffi Hofer, who has developed into Germanies best female Jockey this season, is set to miss the next weeks including – very sadly - her much anticipated Derby mount on Nordfalke. Earl of Fire was unhampered by the lose Kite Hunter who caused havoc in the field, desperately kicking and slashing around trying to get rid of the saddle that had slipped into his private parts. Le Big was actually hit and the race for him was over, as were some other horses badly compromised. Once in front however, Earl of Fire cruised uncontested for much of the race, only to be challenged in the late stages by Sherezad and Win for Sure. The other three year old Noble Promise by Shamardal looked a ham in the paddock, very shiny and glossy, but was a bit empty in deep stretch. The time of 1.35+ was quick.
The emotional highlight of the card was the winner of the fifth, Bonfire Night, who took his second race in a row in commanding style. Locally owned by Catrin and Jim and friends and trained by Christian Sprengel, Bonfire Night was given a peach ride by Filip Minarik who placed him comfortably in midfield where he settled nicely. Always travelling smoothly on the rail, Minarik took him out a furlong from home and smacked him a couple, whereas he took of immediately and within a couple of strides had the race in the bag. Very smart ride, and maybe the best for Bonfire Night is yet to come. The home boy`s win went very well with the crowds, no doubt thanks to the connections who are a real class act indeed.