By Jon Lees
France: It’s been a long time since four-time German champion trainer Andreas Schutz competed at the top level – but while Dawn Intello will start among the outsiders for the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on Sunday, his handler insists the colt is not just making up the numbers in the French Derby.
At the start of the century 52-year-old Schutz was in charge of one of Europe’s most powerful strings that plundered five editions of the Deutsches Derby and campaigned around the world with runners in the Breeders’ Cup, Dubai and Singapore.
However, he gave up his Cologne yard in 2006 to set up in Hong Kong where, after winning back-to-back runnings of the Hong Kong Mile with Good Ba Ba in 2007 and 2008, the victories dried up so much that his licence was not renewed in 2016.
Now Schutz is steadily rebuilding from his new base in Chantilly and the participation of owner Jaber Abdullah’s Dawn Intello – the trainer’s first runner in a Group race since he returned to Europe – is a sign that things are moving back in the right direction.
“All through the year and even last year I thought this horse would make it into a Derby horse,” he explains. “Even though he has not been running in Group company yet, some of the races he ran in were quite solid with horses around him who proved themselves in Listed and Group company.
“I feel he is good enough to have a go at it,” adds the trainer. “I won five German Derbys, I had two 1-2-3s and one 1-2-3-5 so I know what it takes to get a runner ready for this race.
“I hope he will be in the first half of the field at the end to get some prize-money but I am quite confident he will be competitive.”
In Hong Kong trainers are not able to rely on past glories if they fail to meet strict performance criteria and Schutz’s fortunes suffered after he moved to a new training complex built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. While he was by no means the only trainer to struggle from there, he was shown the door along with Sean Woods.
“I couldn’t stay any longer in Hong Kong so I had to make new plans,” explains Schutz. “I didn’t want to go back to my home country because ten years earlier there were reasons to leave the country, and those reasons became worse.
“The prize-money was reduced, the number of races was reduced, the number of owners investing in the sport reduced. Those were the reasons for me to leave Germany in 2005 and when I came back from Hong Kong that hadn’t changed for the better.
“I didn’t want to be too far away from home as my wife was keen to be close to her family so I thought France was worth a go and an increasing number of German owners were running their horses in France.”
Schutz, who regularly trained more than 100 horses in Germany, has charge of 35 at Chantilly with room for 60.
“At this stage we are still building up numbers and a horse like Dawn Intello could make a difference in terms of quality,” he says.
“We haven’t won big races since I came back but we had some good results with Jaber Abdullah’s horses. Dawn Intello would be the best we’ve had so far and, if he’s not going to win the Derby, I still think he is a Group horse.
“We need to back this up with other horses. There are a number of unraced horses I have in the stable who I am looking forward to getting out.”
While there is some way to go to reach previous heights, Schutz is not without hope that is still attainable. “I’ve had five German Derby winners, five Oaks wins in my home country,” he says.
“I won the Singapore Airlines International Cup, had runners in the Breeders’ Cup without much luck and horses finish second and third in the Man O’War Stakes, Arlington Million and Canada plus runners in the Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate, so I’ve been around a bit.
“Obviously you need the horses to give you the opportunity. In terms of my age as a trainer I still have a bit of a future in front of me and hopefully we will get good horses again in my stable.
“I’ve got a team of owners behind me who are willing to invest so hopefully we can have a decent number of yearlings to build things up again.”
• Learn more about French racing at the France Galop website