By Jon Lees
France: Germany’s Walderbe, whose training for the Saudi Cup meeting has halted by bad weather, earned another trip to the Middle East when booking himself an appearance on Dubai World Cup night under Mickaelle Michel with an encouraging warm-up run at Chantilly on Friday.
The Ralf Rohne-trained horse, on whom Michel secured the first wins of her career at G3 and G2 level in Rome and Milan in 2020, went down by a neck under a hands-and-heels ride to Richemont in a conditions race on the Polytrack. The five-year-old was conceding 6lb to the winner over an extended 1m5f on his first start since early November.
“This was a prep start for him,” said Rohne. “We prepared for Riyadh but we were stopped by the winter weather. It would have been perfect ground but we couldn’t canter him so we had to cancel the trip.
“He had two weeks of preparation for the Chantilly race. He wasn’t too hard ridden by Mickaelle Michel and ran a very nice race – I think it was the optimal preparation for the Dubai Gold Cup.”
Former French champion apprentice Michel is the regular rider of Walderbe, partnering him to five victories. An appearance at Meydan on March 27 will make up in some way for the disappointment of being unable to fulfil another stint in Japan, where she has a huge following, due to the pandemic. She rode her sixth winner of the year earlier on the Chantilly card.
“She knows him very well,” said Rohne. “He is a bit special. He needs to have a breather in his race before you can push him and she does that perfectly.”
Dusseldorf-based Rohne had planned to run Walderbe in the $2.5 million Red Sea Turf Handicap on Saudi Cup night until the weather intervened.
“We hadn’t had any snow in 20 years,” he said. “Normally we can train in Dusseldorf with the frost but the snow came overnight and we woke up on Monday morning with 20cm of snow.”
The trainer added: “He had beaten Red Verdon [fourth in Saudi Arabia] very easily in Milan so we thought we could have finished third or fourth in Riyadh, where a lot of money was on offer. I don’t know who is running in the Dubai Gold Cup but it could be tougher.”