By Jon Lees
Germany: Rene Piechulek is banking on rain falling in Paris to assist Germany’s horse of the year Torquator Tasso in his quest to secure his country’s third victory in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Piechulek, 34, has been checking the weather forecast daily and has been encouraged by the outlook for Longchamp as he prepares to make his debut in Europe’s richest turf race.
Since becoming the four-year-old’s regular partner in July, the jockey has steered Torquator Tasso to two victories from three starts, the latest in the G1 Grosser Preis von Baden last month, in which their defeat of German Derby winner Sisfahan earned both horse and jockey a place in the Arc line-up.
“I am very excited,” said Piechulek. “I am a bit nervous too as it will be my first ride in this race. I’ve won Group 1s in Germany but the Arc de Triomphe is a special race and I think it’s a dream for every jockey to ride in it.”
Owned by Gestut Auenquelle and trained by Marcel Weiss, Torquator Tasso was crowned Germany’s top performer last year after winning the G1 Grosser Preis von Berlin and finishing second in the German Derby, beaten three quarters of a length by In Swoop, the subsequent Arc runner-up.
Although among the outsiders in the betting, those performances give connections every hope he can get among the prize-money, though soft ground would be a big help in the 100th edition of a race in which there have been two German winners, Danedream and Star Appeal.
“If we get soft ground and a quick race, I think he will run very well,” said Piechulek. “That’s what he likes, very soft ground, which is why I am hoping for rain. If we do, I think he could get in the prize-money.
“Last year when he was second to In Swoop in the German Derby he was three-years-old. He was good then, but this year he is better. I think he is actually getting better and better.”
Piechulek rode Torquator Tasso on his two-year-old debut but did not sit on him again until this year.
“I told the trainer he was a nice horse and I asked to ride him in his second race but Bauyrzhan Murzabayev rode him,” he said.
“Then at the beginning of the year, Marcel asked me to ride him in Hamburg. I had beaten him last year in a G1 with Sunny Queen so I knew how good he was.”
He went on: “He was very unlucky in the Grosser Preis von Berlin this year. He needs the whole straight to get to full speed. The straight is three furlongs in Berlin and we had to stop two furlongs out when Alpinista crossed me, so I had to start again and those remaining two furlongs were too short to do that.
“So in Baden-Baden I started to push on the bend to get to full speed because the straight is two and a half furlongs.”
Piechulek has ridden around 450 winners since his debut in 2007, including 11 at Group level of which two were G1s. He is in a relationship with Munich trainer Sarah Steinberg and helped deliver one of her biggest successes last year when partnering Fearless King to victory in the German 2,000 Guineas.
He has ridden winners in France too but hopes the Arc will be run at an end-to-end gallop. “I like the racing in France, but you need a good horse to win,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s not easy to ride there when they have very slow-run races. Most German horses need quick races so I hope we get that in the Arc with all the international horses that there will be.
“I have been checking the weather every day because I hope for rain and from what I have seen it looks like they will get it.”