A clichéd statement perhaps, but Star Appeal was a shining star for German racing, although it was not until his five year old season that his true ability was shown. He was the first German trained horse to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and his achievements were a declaration to the rest of Europe that German horses were a force to be reckoned with.
Foaled in 1970, Star Appeal was the son of the Derby Italiano winner Appiani II, who descended from the Dark Ronald branch of the sireline of the great Newminster. His dam, Sterna, likewise descended from this same dynasty, and so Star Appeal certainly inherited abundant stamina.
Star Appeal began his career in Ireland under the tutelage of John Oxx, and won two of four starts as a two year old over distances between six furlongs as a mile. As a three year old, he won his seasonal debut over seven furlongs before finishing third in the Gallinule Stakes, seventh in the Irish Derby behind Weaver’s Hall, and third in the Irish St Leger behind Conor Pass.
Before the 1973 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Star Appeal was transferred to the care of German trainer Anton Pohlkötter, for whom he finished eighth behind Rheingold and Allez France. Star Appeal ran in eleven races as a four year old, and registered wins in the Group 2 Grosser Preis der Badischen Unternehmen, and the Group 3 Frankfurt-Pokal (for which he still holds the race record). He also contested the Prix Dollar and Champion Stakes.
It was Star Appeal’s third trainer, Theo Grieper, who truly got the best out of the horse and conditioned him to win top class races. His 1975 campaign began with placings in two minor races, before he recorded a second win in the Grosser Preis der Badischen Unternehmen. This race marked the turning point for Star Appeal, and afterwards he was a fully-fledged Group 1 performer. His first top-level triumph came in the Gran Premio di Italiano, where he beat dual Prix Roma winner Duke Of Marmalade and Derby Italiano winner Orange Bay.
Star Appeal then went to England for the Eclipse Stakes, where he beat Taros and Royal Manacle by two lengths after taking the lead well inside the final furlong. Also behind him was the outstanding filly Nobiliary, winner of the Washington International and Prix Saint-Alary.
In his next race, Star Appeal finished third to the great mare Dahlia in the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup at York. His final race before his record breaking Arc run came in the Grosser Preis von Baden-Baden, where he finished fourth to German Derby and St Leger winner Marduk.
In the Arc, Star Appeal was an outsider at over 100-1 despite his two Group 1 wins that season. Facing him were two of the greatest fillies of the 20th Century: Dahlia and Allez France, who had won the previous year’s Arc. Also in the field was the top class filly Ivanjica, who was to win the race the following year, St Leger winner Bruni, French 2000 Guineas victor Green Dancer, and old foes Nobiliary and Duke Of Marmalade. Star Appeal’s chances were dismissed not only due to the quality of the race, but also due to the fact that no German trained horse had ever won the Arc.
In a daring ride, jockey Greville Starkey slipped Star Appeal between a wall of battling horses in the home straight and charged away from On My Way and Prix Saint Alary winner Comtesse de Loir for a facile and history making win.
Subsequent defeats in the Champion Stakes and Washington DC International could not diminish Star Appeal’s achievements in the Arc, and he remained the only German trained horse to win the race until Danedream in 2011.
Star Appeal retired to the National Stud, where he sired the Prix de Diane winner Madam Gay. He died, appropriately, on Christmas Day in 1987 aged seventeen.
By Alice Kay