Hindsight - Uwe Ostmann
Peter Muhlfeit spoke to Uwe Ostmann, who for four decades was a driving force in German racing, winning more than 1.600 races and who at the tender age of 78 still loves outdoor swimming and has a close eye on German racing.
You retired six years ago; how hard was it to give up racing?
It was tough for me as I was practically dealing my whole life with horses. But I live only a five-minute walk away from the racecourse and my former stable in Mulheim. I’m still in touch with the owners of Gestut Auenquelle, for whom I had plenty of success. I’m feeling well, do a lot of sport—cycling and swimming outdoors in a lake—and I watch a lot of racing. I hardly miss a racing day in Cologne.
How do you judge the current situation of German racing?
I’m actually quite optimistic that we will turn the tide, and better days are to come. If there is good weather and good racing, there are plenty of young people coming to watch the horses. But the racing clubs have to work to attract a new crowd. Cologne, Hannover and Hoppegarten are showing the way. But I realise that it is difficult to find sponsors and create the betting revenue to fund top racing.
What got you involved in racing in the first place?
I grew up in Detmold in North-Rhine-Westfalia, and there used to be a small racecourse in the Fifties. Bruno Schütz, one of our best trainers ever, did win a pony race back then. I was fascinated by the horses and wanted to do work with them. An uncle of mine helped me to get an apprenticeship with Sven von Mitzlaff when I was 15.
You learned the trade at the yard who has trained Germany’s only Triple Crown winner Konigsstuhl. What kind of man was Herr von Mitzlaff?
Herr von Mitzlaff was a really fine man—only on few occasions he raised his voice. The whole situation at the stable—we were six apprentices at the time—was very homely. We were raised and educated in a very good way...something that helps and stays with you your whole life.
Von Mitzlaff did win the German Derby seven times. You landed the Derby once—1988 with Luigi, ridden by Walter Swinburn. Was this the biggest moment of your training career?
Yes of course, despite the fact I trained plenty of other great horses. But a Derby win really puts you on the map, in the late Eighties even more so as the media attention was much bigger than it is now. And it was particular sweet for us that Luigi beat Alte Zeit, who was in training with me as a two-year-old and won the Preis der Winterkonigin for me. At three she raced for Hein Bollow. So I was very happy that we beat her and it wasn’t the other way round.
Gonbarda, homebred by Auenquelle, probably was the best filly you ever trained. She won two Gp1 races. What was so special about her?
She had real stamina and a big fighting heart. And even though she was a Lando-offspring she did not need any particular ground. She won the Gp1 Preis von Europa on soft ground. Gonbarda then was sold for big money to Darley Stud. Unfortunately she did not race again but produced some really good horses like the Champion Stakes and Lockinge Stakes winner Farhh.
You had a reputation of being particularly successful with two-year-olds. What was your secret?
I don’t have a secret, but I guess I trusted the good horses to go out early. Mandelbaum, who was unbeaten at two and three years, or Turfkonig, winner of eight Group races, were out three times at two, and it didn’t hurt their career. Today I feel that some trainers are a bit too timid in this respect.
How do you rate the current crop?
Noble Moon, winner of the Preis des Winterfavoriten, is well bred. Sea The Moon has done very well with his first year, and I’m convinced that there will be some good stayers out there by him. I’m anyway amazed that German breeding still manages to produce top horses on a regular basis despite its small base and the fact that we are selling plenty of our best horses abroad.