Weld puts Leopardstown on menu for returning 'Passage'
FORMER Ascot Cup winner Rite Of Passage is set to make his seasonal debut in the Seamus & Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown on Friday.
The injury-plagued gelding 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 and Weld feels it is the ideal prep race before a return to the Royal meeting.
"We will see what the week brings, but the present plan is to run," the trainer explained. "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."
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 progressive Biographer and Mark Johnston's Oriental Fox in the field.
Also on the card is the King George V Cup, formerly run as the Nijinsky Stakes. Sandown Classic Trial winner Sugar Boy and John Oxx's Zand are interesting entries.
Freewheel, Resolute Response, Safe Home and Salhooda are others to catch the eye among an entry of 20, though Sugar Boy is unlikely to run unless there's significant rain in the coming days, according to trainer Patrick Prendergast.
At Leicester yesterday, Juvenile Lead failed to get Sea The Stars off to a winning start as a stallion when he could only finish sixth in the two-year-old maiden.
The colt was easy to back and was sent off a 5/1 chance. Ryan Moore gave him every chance as the first runner of the 2009 champion racehorse, but he could never get into a challenging position and was seven and three-quarter lengths behind the winner Cable Bay, ridden by James McDonald.