Rite Of Passage Strikes Ascot Gold
1 Rite Of Passage 20/1
Six-year-old Rite Of Passage, whose career began when landing a gamble in a Galway bumper two summers ago, lined up in the Gold Cup exactly three months after his last start when third over two miles and five furlongs in a Cheltenham Festival novices’ hurdle.
“It’s a race I’ve always wanted to win. It’s one of the great races of the world and I’ve been second in this with both my previous runners Vinnie Roe and Vintage Crop both just getting beaten and, although there were some very good horses in this year’s Gold Cup, I just thought he had an outstanding chance,” said winning trainer Dermot Weld.
“He did it well and I love to train horses over a number of years, that’s one of the joys of training. I also love training stayers
“We probably picked the wrong race at Cheltenham, he ran a good race and it was just too far for him and he probably would have won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over two miles. He’s a super, athletic horse and great jumper.
“There were two reasons why I bought him (for 20,000 guineas in October 2005) as a yearling. Firstly, he was a very active horse but also because his grandmother was Dahlia, who won the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes here twice. I thought that if he’d got her genes then he’d be OK. We gave him lots of time to develop. We had a good draw and I left it up to Pat what to do, I just told him to keep handy.
Paddy Power quoted Rite Of Passage at 10/1 for the Melbourne Cup and 14/1 for next year’s Champion Hurdle and Weld added: ”We’ve two candidates for Melbourne as we also have Profound Beauty for it and we will have to see what the handicapper does. The first Tuesday in November is a long way away.
“I suspect he’ll probably reappear in the Irish St Leger and we’ll see how time progresses. He’s obviously a Champion Hurdle prospect in years to come and we’ll take one day at a time.”
Smullen added: “I was always very happy and he quickened like the good horse he is. Having Age Of Aquarius up there with me helped but I didn’t want to join Johnny (Murtagh) too soon and help him because his horse is a real dogged stayer and we had a bit more speed.
“Even after half a mile, being drawn 13 was a big advantage and I was able to save ground all the way round. I was travelling extremely well and just waiting to get out. When the gap came I went - I got out when I needed to and he battled on.
“I’m very fortunate to ride for one of the best trainers in the world and I was gutted when I was beaten on Vinnie Roe in this race but this makes this all the sweeter. This is what it’s all about. You need a stayer and speed to win in Melbourne and he has both.”
Dublin-based owner Ronan Lambe, whose doctorate comes from a PhD in pharmaceuticals, bought Rite Of Passage privately after he had won his bumper debut in the colours of original owner Chris McHale.
“Dermot is a genius of a trainer and I think he first mentioned the Gold Cup in January or February and I thought he was a bit crazy!” recalled Lambe, who has around 20 horses with Weld. “This is the most exciting day of my racing life. I’ve had horses for five years and had a lot of winners but nothing on this scale.
“I bought this horse in February of last year with the intention of running in the Cheltenham Bumper and he finished third (the following month). We then put him aside with the intention of running on the Flat and he ran away with the Leopardstown November Handicap and he won by eight lengths.
“The ground was heavy that day and I have to admit I was worried about that today. Pat Smullen rode a magnificent race and it was a great training performance because he’d had lots of niggling problems with his back and things.
“It was only two weeks ago that he really came right and he did a super gallop at Leopardstown 10 days ago and that made us more optimistic coming into this
“Melbourne was also one of the targets that Dermot mentioned but I guess that he will have a big weight there now so I think it might be unlikely we’ll go there. Today has been a his star day. “
MURTAGH ‘SICK’ AFTER DEFEAT ON AQUARIUS
Johnny Murtagh came close to riding his third successive Gold Cup winner when finishing second on Age Of Aquarius.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained four-year-old became engaged in a home-straight slog with winner Rite Of Passage before succumbing by a neck. Purple Moon was a further six lengths back in third ahead of fourth-placed Spanish raider Bannaby.
Murtagh said: “It was a really, really top-class race. They went a hell of a gallop and my lad stayed well. He loved the fast ground and I thought he had it won turning for home, but just caught in the last 60 yards. He’s a very brave horse and I’m sick.”
Age Of Aquarius’s joint-owner, Derrick Smith said: “He stayed every yard of the trip and was just beaten by a better horse on the day. We’re delighted, but when you get so close it’s a little disappointing. I’ve been told he was a little on his toes before the race, but better that way than the other. We’re happy with him, just the result wasn’t right.”
Luca Cumani, trainer of Purple Moon, said: “He’s run very well when you consider he’s been travelling and racing around the world and missed most of last year through injury - they were only little things, the sort athletes get.
“I think we’ll be inclined to look towards the Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Stakes now, and Craig [Bennett, Purple Moon’s owner] has said we should probably put him in the Melbourne Cup.”
Trainer Mauricio Delcher-Sanchez said of Bannaby’s effort: “He has run very well to finish fourth and I’m very happy. I had belief that he could win turning for home, but in the final 200 metres he had no more to give. Maybe softer ground would suit him better. He will now recuperate before we make plans.”
GROUND TOO QUICK FOR ASK
Ask started 11/4 favourite for the Gold Cup, the Group One highlight on the third day of Royal Ascot, but could fare no better than fifth.
His jockey Ryan Moore commented: “The ground was just too quick for him. It was also a rough race.”
Tom Queally partnered the well-supported Manifest, but he was soon beaten and eventually came home in 10th.
Queally said: “I don’t think he stayed and he also lost a shoe.”
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