The Baden Year
Located ten kilometres west of Baden-Baden, in the small town of Iffezheim, the old-fashioned course holds signature meetings in the Spring and Autumn. Alongside those festivals, however, it centres attention on the G1 Grosser Preis von Baden, held each year in early September. This year saw just four runners, something racecourse management blamed on the presence of Torquator Tasso, 2021 winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and a reluctance to take him on. As it was, however, this year's Arc twelfth, Mendocino, beat Torquator Tasso by a neck, delivering a shock defeat. The prize money has been raised for next year's edition, as it continues to entice entries from the rest of the world.
The new meeting
Teaming up with the Pari Mutuel (PMU), France's betting service, the course provided the unique spectacle of turf flat racing in December for the first time. With free entry, and punters arriving on the bus from nearby towns, the course was using the partnership to generate revenue over the border (which sits just a couple of kilometres away). This year's Grosser Preis von Baden was the first to be broadcast to Hong Kong, and new international interest in German racing has clearly equated to a solid following back home. From a vantage point in the Members Room (chock full of cookies and glühwein), I looked out at a huddling of Christmas stalls and a family crowd who, hot chocolates consumed, were taking a keen interest in each horse, cheering runners through the 'walk of fame' and peering attentively into saddling boxes.