Jenny - Clean

INTERNATIONAL trail-blazer Dermot Weld has unearthed another contender for this year’s historic 150th Emirates Melbourne Cup following last night’s (AET) win of Rite Of Passage in the prestigious Ascot Gold Cup (4000m) at Royal Ascot, UK.

“I suppose we’ll have to take him to Melbourne now,” Weld said immediately after the six-year-old delivered his first success in England’s most famous staying race.

Like Weld’s inaugural Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Cup (1993), Rite Of Passage was better-known as a promising hurdler before last night’s dominant staying performance in front of the Queen.

Weld’s previous best performances in the Ascot Gold Cup were placings with Vintage Crop in 1994 – the year after his Melbourne Cup success – and in 2005 with Vinnie Roe, the year after his second placing in the Melbourne Cup behind the great Makybe Diva.

Weld is the only UK trainer to have won the Melbourne Cup, landing the prize for a second time with Media Puzzle in 2002 which is now the subject of the movie The Cup that is being filmed around Melbourne at present.

English bookmaker Paddy Power has already installed Rite Of Passage as a 10/1 chance for this year’s Melbourne Cup for which entries close on 3 August. Interestingly, he has also been quoted at 14/1 for next year’s Champion Hurdles in the UK.

On a rack rated good to firm, Rite Of Passage, ridden a perfect race by Vinnie Roe’s former jockey Pat Smullen, ran a course record 4:16.92 for the 4000 metre journey.

Starting at 20/1 on track, he ran down Aidan O’Brien’s Age Of Aquarius (6/1) over the final 200 metres to win by a neck with 2007 Melbourne Cup runner-up Purple Moon (12/1) six lengths away in third.

Interestingly, Rite Of Passage is owned by Dr Richard Lambe, an Irish research scientist whose daughter Kate is currently attending university in Melbourne. Weld’s son Mark said Dr Lambe was a regular visitor to Melbourne to see his daughter and was very keen to have a runner in the Melbourne Cup.

He said Dr Lambe had arrived at Weld’s Rosewell stables at The Curragh in his Jaguar about five years ago, knocked on the door and said he wanted to buy some horses.

“Money is no object to him and he’s now one of our principal owners,” Mark Weld said.

Dermot Weld also intends to bring Profound Beauty, who ran fifth behind Viewed in the 2008 Melbourne Cup, back to Melbourne this year.

“She’s in good shape and if she comes through her next two runs okay, she’ll be back in Melbourne,” he said overnight.

It was only three months ago that Rite Of Passage, a son of Giant’s Causeway, finished third in a Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Dermot Weld said he had paid 20,000 guineas for Rite Of Passage as a yearling because his grand dam was the champion staying mare Dahlia and he was a very active horse.

He will use the same route to the Melbourne Cup with Rite Of Passage as he did with Vintage Crop and Vinnie Roe, running in the Irish St Leger in September.

Smullen was later suspended for four days for pushing out of a pocket turning for home, causing interference to the 11/4 favourite Ask who finished fifth. Johnny Murtagh, the rider of runner-up Age Of Aquarius, was suspended for three days for excessive use of the whip.

Regular Melbourne visitor Luca Cumani was pleased with the run of minor placegetter Purple Moon’s and said will also be a likely visitor to Melbourne this spring.

“I haven’t finalised my horses for Melbourne yet but he is likely to go back again,” Cumani, who also has 2008 Melbourne Cup runner-up Bauer and the Australian-owned Manighar on Cup preparations, said after the race.

Later in the program, the Cumani-trained Afsare scored the narrowest of wins over the Queen’s horse Quadrille in the Listed Hampton Court Stakes (2000m).

“I won’t be popular for that,” joked the Italian-born Cumani, “but then again I’m not a subject.”

In further news from the Ascot Gold Cup, the connections of French stayer Kasbah Bliss, who has also forged a career as a hurdler, have declared their desire to come to Melbourne too.

Kasbah Bliss, trained by Francois Doumen, ran an even race to finish sixth in the Gold Cup and his connections are also keen to target this year’s 150th Melbourne Cup.



Media Contact: Shaun Kelly – RVL Communications Manager
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