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Weld confirms Rite's Festival place after Punchestown win

Rite Of Passage booked his place at the Cheltenham Festival next month as Dermot Weld confirmed his two-time hurdle winner would take his chance in the Neptune Investments Novice Hurdle, providing Dunguib remains on course for the Supreme Novices.

Weld's classy dual purpose sort is now as low as 3/1 for Cheltenham honours as he overcame the 144-rated Healy's Bar in the opener at Punchestown yesterday, where the home of Irish jump racing again set the standard for Irish racecourses.

One of the healthiest midweek crowds in some time flocked to the Kildare venue where it was just €10 entry, and it proved a welcoming incentive, which surely other tracks should now follow.

Rite Of Passage was the highlight of the card as rider Robbie McNamara oozed his regular confidence and the pair won by a snug length at the death.

"That was a satisfactory performance," said the winning trainer afterwards. "It was only his second start over hurdles and he just found it a little tight on the inside track.

"One reason we took him here was to experience the undulations and it took time to get used to it but he did. I will let him take his chance in the Neptune Investments Novice Hurdle, which is likely to be his next race," Weld revealed.

"He wasn't spectacular but it was satisfactory and it's mission accomplished. The 2m5f race looks the logical thing to do as I have the highest regard and respect for Dunguib."

Former Champion Juvenile in Ireland Won In The Dark returned to the scene of his finest victory by landing the Five Day Festival Hurdle in the hands of Davy Russell.

The Sabrina Harty-trained six-year-old was highly benefiting from the conditions of the race and was retuned an amazingly overpriced even-money shot, and the Champion Hurdle, while ground dependant, is now back on the horizon according to the trainer.


"He is gone very lazy at home so we used this as a bit of work hoping to get a bit of confidence back," Harty said.

"He has developed an allergy since Christmas and the vet said it would take time to get right and I think he is nearly there now. It depends on the ground where he goes next, as his owner says there is no point in going to Cheltenham if it's soft."

Willie Mullins' Flat Out also appears Cheltenham bound after winning the Festival Hospitality Maiden Hurdle in good style.

A seven-length winner, he was given a quote of 33/1 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle and Mullins said: "He didn't do much wrong and I'm very pleased with him. He's booked his ticket across the water. At the moment I'd say he will go for the Supreme Novices."