Weld won't rush Rules' switch to jumps game
Dermot Weld has suggested that his classy Flat stayer Forgotten Rules could yet have its switch to hurdling delayed until next season.
The Curragh wizard had indicated that the Nayef five-year-old, which won a Group Two on Champions Day at Ascot last year and was placed in Group One company at the same track when third in the Gold Cup in June, might make its jumping debut at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival.
However, yesterday Weld stressed that a final decision has yet to be made about whether or not Forgotten Rules would grace the Foxrock venue over the festive period.
"He is coming along nicely but Leopardstown at Christmas might come a little soon for him," he explained of the Moyglare Stud-owned gelding.
"I haven't made a definite decision whether or not we will go jumping with him yet.
"I am happy with him, but he has only started learning his trade. I just want to see with him, because he has the potential to go to the very top over hurdles, so it is a case of deciding whether we go this season with him or wait until next season.
"Having raced on the Flat right up to the end of the season, he hasn't had as much schooling maybe as I would like, but he is getting on grand and he will tell me when he is ready. I just haven't decided yet one way or another."
Windsor Park, which was last seen over flights winning the Neptune Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, is likely to contest the two-mile Ryanair Hurdle.
"He had a break since he ran at Leopardstown in September and will start back over two miles at Christmas," Weld said of Dr Ronan Lambe's six-year-old. "We'll see how he gets on there before making any other plans."
He also confirmed that exciting hurdling prospects Vigil and Silver Concorde, both of which are engaged in the Grade One Future Champions Novices' Hurdle on December 27, would likely reappear at the four-day meeting.
"I have been very happy with the way they are coming on," said Weld, who still has an eye acutely focused on the Flat. His talented Prince Of Wales's Stakes victor Free Eagle is poised to tackle the Hong Kong Cup on Sunday week, prior to retiring to stand at the Irish National Stud.
With a total prize fund of HK$25m or around €3m, the 10-furlong Group One is one of the richest turf races in the world. Jim Bolger plundered it with Alexander Goldrun in 2004, and last year it was won by the former Pat Flynn-trained Designs On Rome, which is again among the likely runners.
"I'm happy with him," Weld said of Free Eagle. "It is coming to the end of a long year, that is the only thing. The local horses will have the advantage of the summer off, they are at their peak now, whereas we are at the end of a long year. If Free Eagle transfers his European form he would be very hard to beat, but it is the end of a long year for him so that is a slight concern."
Free Eagle was hampered badly on his last two starts, first in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and then in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. He is a clear 9/2 market leader to win in Sha Tin, with Designs On Rome next best at 6/1.
Aidan O'Brien will also be represented on the card, as his globetrotter Highland Reel is set to step back up to 12 furlongs in the Hong Kong Vase.
At Ludlow yesterday, Tipperary-born Paul Moloney's season took a horrible turn when a fall from Kudu Country in the handicap chase left him with a broken leg. Prior to yesterday, Moloney had won on his last four rides and seven of his last nine for a running tally of 45 that had him firmly on course for a career-best total.
At home, the funeral of Co Westmeath training stalwart Cecil Ross takes place in the village of Sonna at 11.0 today. The popular 77-year-old multi-purpose handler, who had been ill, enjoyed some great success in recent years with the Group-winning sprinter Six Of Hearts.
Meanwhile, Horse Racing Ireland's annual awards will take place at Leopardstown on Monday. There is a vast range of nominations for the four awards decided by a media poll, with 53-year-old point-to-point veteran Don Atkinson, still going strong 38 years after his first ride, among those in contention alongside more familiar names.
The Outstanding Achievement Award is up for public vote as well as the poll, and details can be found on goracing.ie. Tony Martin, Jonathan Burke, Nina Carberry, Seamie Heffernan, Connor King, Sandra Hughes, Katie Walsh and Hurricane Fly's groom Gail Carlisle are the contenders.