There can be no better breeding home run than for a mare to produce a Derby winner as her first foal. In the case of Gestüt Röttgen’s homebred Wellenspiel (Ger) (Sternkoenig Ger), this auspicious entree to her stud career happened not once but twice, with her first two foals both becoming winners of the G1 Deutsches Derby.
Windstoss (Ger) (Shirocco Ger) and his half-brother Weltstar (Ger) (Soldier Hollow GB) are the product of nine generations of Röttgen breeding, stretching back to the purchase of one of the stud’s first mares, Winnica (Pol), around 1930. Wander back another five generations beyond her and you will find the Hungarian superstar mare Kincsem (Hun).
The brothers’ consecutive Classic wins led to champion breeder honours in Germany in 2017 and 2018 for the long-established Cologne farm. In fact, Röttgen is closing in on its century as a Thoroughbred stud, having been founded in 1924 in the grounds of Röttgen Castle by owner Peter Paul Mülhens. Following the death in 1985 of Maria Mehl-Mülhens, the stud has remained in the ownership of the Mehl-Mülhens family trust and is managed by Frank Dorff. The family’s name appears in the title of the German 2,000 Guineas, the Mehl-Mülhens Rennen, which is run at its local racecourse of Cologne.
Windstoss and Weltstar revived a Derby heritage for Röttgen which began in 1932 with its first winner of the race, Palastpage (Ger), but had stalled since the 1959 victory of Uomo (Ger). There will undoubtedly be high hopes for three younger half-sisters of the recent Derby winners who have been retained by the stud.
“Wellenspiel’s 2-year-old by Dubawi (Ire) has been named Well Disposed and she will go into training with Markus Klug by the end of this month,” says Dorff, who will be able to keep a close eye on the filly’s progress at Klug’s private training centre within the walls of the extensive grounds at Röttgen. Well Disposed will join her 3-year-old half-sister Wellenpracht (GB), who is from the first crop of resident stallion Protectionist (Ger).
He adds, “Wellenspiel also has a yearling filly by Sea The Stars (Ire). She will not be offered for sale. The plan is to retain her for breeding, hopefully after she has won some Group races.”
Wellenspiel is currently in foal to Soldier Hollow, and is therefore carrying a full-sibling to the second of her Derby winners, but she will be rested this year owing to her late covering date. Röttgen will, however, be breeding from 29 mares in 2021, including five maidens.
Other members of the Rottgen ‘W line’ include the G3 Preis der Winterkonigin winner and G2 Diana Trial runner-up Well Spoken (Ger) (Soldier Hollow GB). The daughter of the champion 2-year-old Well American (Bertrando) is currently in foal to Areion (Ger) and will covered in France this year by Haras d’Etreham’s young stallion Almanzor (Fr).
The Gestut Rottgen-bred Wirko (Ger) (Kingman GB) was the most expensive colt sold at the BBAG Yearling Sale of 2019 when bought for €700,000. The Godolphin colour-bearer won on his second start for Charlie Appleby in November and his dam Weltmacht (Ger) (Mount Nelson GB) was one of the early foalers at the stud this season, delivering a filly from the first crop of Arc winner Waldgeist (GB). She heads next to Soldier Hollow.
Of wider international acclaim is Röttgen’s ‘A family’, which includes the farm’s 1981 G1 Preis der Diana winner Anna Paola (Ger) (Prince Ippi Ger). Her descendants have continued to make an impression across the racing world and they include the 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook (GB) (Champs Elysees GB), Australian-born stallion Helmet (Aus) (Exceed And Excel Aus), who is now at stud in Germany, as well as the Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power (Ire) (Shirocco Ger).
Members of this family remaining within the Röttgen broodmare band include the G2 Diana Trial winner Akribie (Ger), from the first crop of Reliable Man (GB), who will visit Juddmonte’s Oasis Dream (GB) in her first season.
Anna Desta (Ger) (Desert Style Ire) has already produced last season’s listed Derby Trial winner Adrian (Ger) and she will visit that colt’s sire Reliable Man again. Her daughter Anna Katharina (Ger), by the late Röttgen homebred stallion Kallisto (Ger), is in foal to Ballylinch Stud’s New Bay (GB) and has another visit to Ireland on the cards as she is booked in to Camelot (GB) at Coolmore.
The stud’s more precocious ‘D family’ is represented by the treble listed winner Diatribe (GB) (Tertullian), who descends from the same clan as Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and is the dam of dual Group 3 winner Degas (Ger) (Exceed And Excel Aus) and G3 Mehl-Mülhens Trophy runner-up Dina (Ger) (Nathaniel Ire). Her 2-year-old filly by Lope de Vega (Ire) is now in training in France with Philippe Decouz for owner and footballer Antoine Griezmann, and this year the mare will visit Too Darn Hot (GB) in Newmarket. The maiden Dapriva (Ger), a daughter of Pivotal (GB), is also bound for Britain and will return to Cheveley Park Stud, were she was conceived, to produce a variant on the successful Galileo-Pivotal cross with a visit to Ulysses (Ire).
For all studs in mainland Europe, there have been extra complications involved this year when it comes to sending mares to British stallions since the UK’s departure from the EU.
“Brexit is a big problem for breeders,” Dorff explains. “Most breeders sent their mares before to England before the end of December. I hope by the time the mares have to come back from England, there will be a better working solution for the transport of horses.”
The 18-year-old Kastila (Ger) (Sternkoenig Ger) has been a stalwart of the Röttgen ranks with three of her offspring all having been placed at Group 1 level. Of those, Kassiano (Ger) and Kasalla (Ger) are both by Soldier Hollow, and Kaspar (Ger), who was third in last year’s Deutsches Derby, is a son of Pivotal (GB). The proven producer will visit Best Solution (Ire), whose first foals are arriving this season in Germany, after she has foaled to the multiple Group-winning sprinter/miler Millowitsch (Ger), one of three sires currently resident in the elaborate Röttgen stallion wing.
Millowitsch, who joined the stallion ranks last season, has a rather unusual stud fee for 2021 of €1,111, which is derived from the fact that the 8-year-old son of the Titus Lives (Fr) stallion Sehrezad (Ire) is named in honour of Cologne comedian Willy Millowitsch. The carnival in the city has the traditional and equally unusual start time of 11.11am on Nov. 11 each year.
While Millowitsch’s sireline is relatively obscure, the same cannot be said for his barn mate Protectionist (Ger), who has the somewhat forlorn honour of being the final son of the celebrated Monsun (Ger) in Germany.
“We have big hopes to keep the legacy of Monsun alive,” Dorff says of the Melbourne Cup winner whose victories closer to home include the G1 Grosser Preis Von Berlin. “Monsun’s progeny weren’t really precocious, and Protectionist’s offspring are not really precocious either. It is remarkable that he has had two 2-year-old black-type horses already.”
Still in the ownership of Australian Bloodstock, Protectionist retired to Röttgen in 2017 and his fee has remained at €6,500 throughout that time. The stud’s support of its own stallions down the years is evident in the pedigrees outlined above and that remains the case with the current trio.
Dorff continues, “With Well Protected (Ger), who is out of [listed winner] Weichsel (Ger), and Wellenpracht, who is a half-sister to two Derby winners, we have two very nice 3-year-old horses by him in training who we think should be able to win black-type races this year. Protectionist’s Australian owners are sending him around 10 mares each year and he receives some very good mares from us each year as well. He is also quite popular in Germany as more or less every big breeder has sent him mares in the last few years. But we have to realise that the number of mares in Germany is dramatically lower than in France, England or Ireland, so the number of his offspring is not comparable with stallions out of these countries.”
This season, Gestüt Röttgen has welcomed back Sven and Carina Hanson’s Reliable Man (GB), a Group 1 winner in both France and Australia whose stock have fared similarly well in both hemispheres and include the G1 VRC Oaks winner Miami Bound (NZ) and G1 New Zealand Oaks winner Miss Sentimental (NZ). The 13-year-old, who shuttles to New Zealand’s Westbury Stud, started his European career in Germany in 2014 and spent three seasons in France from 2018. As a son of the late Dalakhani (Ire), Reliable Man is one of the few remaining representatives of the Mill Reef line at stud, along with Sir Percy (GB) at Lanwades.
Dorff says, “We are very happy to have Reliable Man back in Germany. He is very well booked by the German breeders because in this country we have only a few proven stallions like him. We also expect some French mares to come as Germany is much closer and easier than going to England these days. For mares from abroad we offer a transport allowance, which reduces his fee.”
He adds, “Reliable Man has around 110 2-year olds from his first year standing in France to run in 2021 and so should have excellent season.”
As a member of the purchasing syndicate, Röttgen also has an interest in the fledgling career of another globetrotter with top-class form in Germany and Australia: Best Solution. A rare middle-distance runner by Kodiac (GB), he won the G1 Caulfield Cup as well as the G1 Grosser Preis Von Baden and G1 Grosser Preis Von Berlin, and he retired last year to stand alongside former German champion sire Soldier Hollow at Gestut Auenquelle.
“He covered the biggest number of mares in Germany last year and he is also very well booked this year. I’m really looking forward to seeing the foals by him that we are waiting for,” Dorff says of the 7-year-old stallion who was sent 71 mares in his debut season.
The fact that Best Solution’s book was the largest in the country is a telling indication of the relatively small pool of mares in Germany. Last year, 29 stallions covered 778 mares, and the champion sire Adlerflug (Ger) had a book of just 39, though that is significantly larger this year, with increased interest from France, Britain and Ireland.
Dorff sees reasons for optimism, however, despite the ongoing disruptions of the Covid pandemic. He says, “The numbers of mares covered in 2020 was the same as the year before and I hope that the number of mares covered will stay stable this year as well. German racing is weak and the prize-money, compared to France, is very low. We therefore have a weak inland market for our yearlings. If you are a German breeder, you have to breed with fashionable stallions to be able to sell the yearlings to someone abroad, or you are an owner-breeder who has to pay the training fees. There are few people breeding for the domestic market.”
He adds, “But I have learned that some breeders who haven’t had horses for a while have started to have an interest in breeding again. Maybe that’s because they couldn’t go on holiday this year—who knows? The stock market has also had a record-breaking year, so money is still around. This is a big chance for us.”