| 14.9°C Dublin

Passage looks Rite for Saval


Rite of Passage ridden by Pat Smullen. Picture: Rebecca Naden/PA Wire.

Rite of Passage ridden by Pat Smullen. Picture: Rebecca Naden/PA Wire.

Rite of Passage ridden by Pat Smullen. Picture: Rebecca Naden/PA Wire.

RITE OF PASSAGE is on course to make his seasonal debut in the Seamus & Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown on Friday.

The 2010 Ascot Gold Cup winner has not been seen since last October when he overcame a lengthy absence to claim Ascot's Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.

Rite Of Passage finished third behind Fame And Glory in the 2011 renewal of the Saval Beg.

Trainer Dermot Weld said: "We will see what the week brings, but the present plan is to run. We are very pleased with him – that's why he's favourite for the Gold Cup. That (the Gold Cup) would then be the plan if he runs in the Saval Beg."

Weld said he would also run Rite Of Passage in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day if things went smoothly this summer.

Aidan O'Brien has four entries, headed by Imperial Monarch, in the Saval Beg, while John Oxx is aiming to use the race as a stepping stone to Ascot for Saddler's Rock.

Missunited and Steps To Freedom are also engaged.

There are two entries from Britain with David Lanigan's Biographer and Mark Johnston's Oriental Fox both in the field.

Also on the card is the King George V Cup, formerly run as the Nijinsky Stakes. Patrick Prendergast's Sugar Boy, winner of the Sandown Classic Trial, and John Oxx's highly-regarded Zand are interesting entries at this stage.

Freewheel, Resolute Response, Safe Home and Salhooda are others to catch the eye among an entry of 20.



Prendergast has no regrets about not entering Sugar Boy for the Derby at Epsom, but there would have to be significant rain for him to run at Leopardstown.

He said: "I never had him in at Epsom as I didn't think he'd handle the track, but I have no regrets seeing how the race was run.

"Something drastic will have to happen with the weather if I'm to turn up this weekend.

"It's one thing running in the Irish Derby on quick ground, but I won't risk jarring him in a prep race.

"The race at Leopardstown is supposed to benefit him, but if it's not going to do that I'll leave him at home.

"I'm very happy with him."