/ Racing

Dermot Weld does the double at Ascot with Rite Of Passage and Sapphire

Updated: Saturday, 20 Oct 2012 18:14 | Comments

Rite Of Passage on the way to victory
Rite Of Passage on the way to victory

Dermot Weld showed why he has such a tremendous record around the world by displaying his unique art with a double on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot.

The master Irish trainer has captured major global events such as the Melbourne Cup twice and the Belmont Stakes in America, as well as Classics at home and in Europe plus of a host of Group One races.

But even he admitted his deep sense of achievement in bringing Rite Of Passage (8-1) back after 510 days off the track to win the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.

That was the first leg of a 30-1 brace completed by Sapphire in the Qipco British Champions' Fillies' and Mares' Stakes.

Tendon problems had kept the eight-year-old Rite Of Passage on the sidelines and Weld was concerned about the horse's lack of fitness but the 2010 Gold Cup hero came good.

Held up in the rear by Pat Smullen he burst through a gap to lead well inside the furlong and beat Aiken by a neck at 8-1 with Askar Tau in third.

Weld said: "He`s just a special horse and deserves to come back. You must remember he set a track record when he won the Gold Cup, but he`s had serious ongoing tendon problems, so it is a special day to bring him back.

"A lot of times I thought he`d be retired but he`s always had this great will to win and it was a matter of me keeping him sound trying to get him fit. I had a huge concern on his fitness.

"The plan was to take our time with him and hunt and see if we could ride him to come home and we had Pat to do that.

"I've won two Melbourne Cups, but when he came here and broke the track record in the Gold Cup it was one of my most special achievements.

"Today was a great day and provided he is sound we will look to bring him back here for next year's Gold Cup."

Rite Of Passage was third to Peddlers Cross at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010 before he won the Gold Cup, and Weld went on to reveal a tilt at one of the icons of the jumping game was not out of the question.

He said: "I'll speak to his owner Dr (Ronan) Lambe, but we could look to take on Big Buck's (in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle) at Cheltenham. He's a super leaper and jumps for fun."

Smullen said: "I think this was one of the most impressive training performances I`ve ever seen.

"This horse has had a lot of problems and the boss has worked extremely hard to get him cherry ripe for a race like this."

Sapphire completed the Weld team's day when staying on strongly to deny perennial bridesmaid Shirocco Star in the Qipco British Champions Fillies' And Mares' Stakes.

Relishing the testing conditions the four-year-old filly pulled nicely clear in the closing stages to win by two and a quarter lengths.

Weld said: "I was confident she would take a lot of beating. She appreciates some ease in the ground and is unbeaten over a mile and a half.

"I wasn't happy with her just before the Irish Leger, so we decided to concentrate on this and Ascot has always been a lucky track for me. I trained a double at the Royal meeting and we`ve been fortunate to have 17 Group winners here.

"I'll have to speak to the owner, but I would say it is unquestionable she will stay in training next year and in the back of my mind she might be a filly for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe."

Maarek got a fine run through on the stands rail to take the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.

The 5-1 shot was one of just four horses to stick to the near side and David Nagle's seasoned campaigner, who revels in soft ground, grabbed the lead from The Cheka to seal the race.

From the main group, it was Hawkeyethenoo who did best but he was three-quarters of a length behind in second as Ireland dominated the Frankel undercard.

Maarek had disappointed last weekend in a Listed race but Nagle said: "The Curragh last week didn't really work out. They didn`t go fast enough and we were beaten by a very good filly in Katla.

"He loves soft, it was a big pot, so why not? He's been in good form all season.

"I think that will be him finished for the year and we will go off through the Group races next season. I hope we have another wet summer."

Winning rider Jamie Spencer was banned for four days (November 3, 5-7) for using his whip above the permitted level.

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