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Rock provides a Weld double

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Trainer Dermot Weld. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Trainer Dermot Weld. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Trainer Dermot Weld. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

A FIRST Cheltenham Festival success since 1990, a double at the Curragh last Sunday on the opening day of the turf season on the Flat and a double at Leopardstown yesterday including the 2,000 Guineas Trial with a horse who had plenty to find on both ratings and reputation. Dermot Weld is flying.

The master of Rosewell House was denied in the opener at Leopardstown when Kaleefa came out the wrong side of a photo-finish by just a nose from the brave Ceisteach, but he followed that up with a quick-fire double as Fascinating Rock landed the Bulmers Live Summer Racedays Maiden in good style before Go For Goal claimed the listed 2,000 Guineas Trial.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained Indian Maharaja was favourite for the colts' one-mile contest but he was found to be stiff post race and, instead, brave front-running tactics from Smullen aboard the Verglas gelding paid off as the grey, who was second in the Madrid Handicap last week at the Curragh, went one better this time to cause an upset, with Shining Emerald back in second.

Rarely have the flat fraternity had to endure as testing ground at Leopardstown at this stage of the season and summing up the victory afterwards Dermot Weld simply stated: "Fitness!"

He continued: "He ran a good race at the Curragh last week with 9st10lbs on his back and he won well under an enterprising ride from Pat Smullen today.

"We decided today was ideal on the fitness score and he's brave and tries hard. He's effective on that ground but he isn't a heavy-bodied horse so I wouldn't be surprised if he handled better ground."

The Weld/Smullen brace was instigated by Fascinating Rock, who is bound for the rerouted Ballysax Stakes which takes place at Navan in a fortnight.

The trainer commented: "That was a very pleasing performance by a potentially very nice horse. We will see how he comes out of it and I know it's quite soon but the Ballysax could be a race for him to target.

"Hopefully there will be a lot of improvement and on nicer ground we'll see a nicer performance. He is a horse that did particularly well over the winter but as he wants top of the ground I was concerned about the ground for him today." Champion trainer Aidan O'Brien notched up his first winner of the season when the Joseph O'Brien-ridden Bracelet denied the Dermot Weld-trained odds on favourite Balansiya in the Group Three 1,000 Guineas Trial.

O'Brien reiterated his feelings that all of his string will improve dramatically from their first runs of the season and the Montjeu filly, who is a daughter of Cherry Hinton, looks likely to be Newmarket-bound.

"She's a nice filly and she'll stay well in time," O'Brien said. "We'll speak to the boys and if everything is well she might go to the Guineas.

"She would prefer better ground and she's in the Guineas and she's in the Oaks, but Joseph said she has a lot of speed so that's a sign of a good filly. It's better that he's saying that than she's calling out for a mile and a half."

After winning the opener with Ceisteach, trainer Jim Bolger and his son-in-law Kevin Manning doubled up later on the card when Sophisticated Heir won the Follow Leopardstown On Facebook Handicap over seven furlongs, while Naas youngster Seán Corby reduced his claim to 7lbs with his third winner on 33/1 shot Berimont in the Mothers Day at Leopardstown Handicap over 1m2f.


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