Raa Atoll wins the G2 Oleander-Rennen at Hoppegarten racecourse (Image: German Racing)
One-time Lexus Melbourne Cup starter Thomas Hobson suffered a shock first-up defeat in Germany on Sunday, beaten by a horse who now has this year's Lexus Melbourne Cup on his agenda.
Raa Atoll won the €100,000 G2 Comer Group International Oleander-Rennen (3200m) at Berlin’s Hoppegarten racecourse, defeating Thomas Hobson by 1.5 lengths.
Raa Atoll ($33) raced prominently throughout under Slovakian rider Jozef Bojko and fended off the challenge of Thomas Hobson ($1.50 favourite) who settled at the rear of the field and couldn't sustain his long run under Oisin Murphy, peaking on his run over the final 150 metres.
“I had not expected to win,” Bojko told German Racing. “Raa Atoll is a great fighter, a big horse with an equally big heart."
Raa Atoll was trained by John Gosden and raced by the China Horse Club during last season with his highlight run coming during Royal Ascot when fourth in the King Edward VII Stakes (2406m) behind Old Persian, Rostropovich and Giuseppe Garibaldi.
The son of Sea The Stars then spectacularly failed in G2 Princess Of Wales's Arqana Racing Club Stakes (2414m) as a $3.80 chance, beaten 59 lengths by subsequent G1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) winner Best Solution.
Raa Atoll was placed through the Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale and was purchased for the relatively meagre sum of 30,000 guineas (approximately $61,000) by trainer Luke Comer.
Comer has prepared four winners in Ireland over the past four years, with one of those victories coming on the flat.
Comer is also a real estate developer, owning the Comer Group in partnership with his brother Brian.
The Comer Group, which sponsored the Oleander-Rennen, also sponsors feature races in Ireland such as the G1 Irish St Leger and last Sunday's G3 Amethyst Stakes.
"Raa Atoll did a very good job in Ascot last year. However, I had reservations about whether he would be fit enough after such a long break - he only completed two training sessions," Comer said.
"The Ascot Gold Cup is his goal, but the race here in Berlin was a very good preparation.
"Of course, we also head for the Irish St. Leger, which we also sponsor. And my colleague Dermot Weld (trainer of Melbourne Cup winners Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle) advised me to start in Australia."
The past two winners of the Oleander-Rennen have relocated to Australia - Red Cardinal (2017) and Sound Check (2018) - with both horses unplaced in subsequent Lexus Melbourne Cup attempts.
Raa Atoll became the 51st stakes winner for Sea The Stars, his sixth out of a mare by Sadler’s Wells.
As for Thomas Hobson, another horse who started his career in the Gosden stable, he’s likely to make a third consecutive appearance at Royal Ascot next month for trainer Willie Mullins.