Weld likely to stick with Ascot plan for Rite Of Passage
RACING:Big Buck’s may be out of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle picture this season but injury to the legendary jumper doesn’t look like resulting in an immediate return to National Hunt action for the former Ascot Gold Cup winner Rite Of Passage.
The 2010 Royal Ascot hero completed a near-miraculous return to top-flight flat action when scoring at the British Champions Day fixture at Ascot in October. Afterwards trainer Dermot Weld said a return to jumping could be on the cards for the top-stayer with the World Hurdle at Cheltenham in March being considered. Rite Of Passage has twice been placed at the festival, in the Champion Bumper and the Neptune Hurdle.
In revised betting for the World Hurdle after confirmation that Big Buck’s has been ruled out for the season, Rite Of Passage has been installed as a 7 to 1 shot for the three-mile prize behind Willie Mullins’s mare Quevega in some ante-post lists. However, Weld appeared to pour cold water on such aspirations yesterday.
“The present plan is to go for the Gold Cup again and nothing has changed,” the Curragh trainer said yesterday. “I’ll have a chat with Dr Lambe (owner) over Christmas but the plan is the Gold Cup.”
Weld also reported he won’t have a large team of horses on duty at Leopardstown for the Christmas festival with Unaccompanied the big name from Rosewell House as she defends her Istabraq Festival Hurdle title on Day Four.
Unaccompanied won her second Grade One prize in the Istabraq last year but this time looks set to bump into the 2011 Champion Hurdler Hurricane Fly and possibly the star English horse Darlan. “I’ll actually have very few runners over Christmas,” Weld added, before saying there are no definite plans for when his good young hurdler Waaheb appears again.
The St Stephen’s Day highlight at Leopardstown will be the Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase which looks like seeing the next eagerly-awaited appearance of the flamboyant Drinmore winner Arvika Ligeonniere.
Conditions at Limerick yesterday were “heavy” ahead of their four-day festival which has the Grade Two Greenmount Park Novice Chase as the feature on St Stephen’s Day. Twenty three entries are left in with promising horses like Lyreen Legend, Mount Benbulben and Sword Of Destiny still in contention to run.
Hickey appointed senior steward
Former international showjumper and stud owner Michael Hickey has been appointed senior steward of the Irish Nationa lHunt Steeplechase Committee. He succeeds William Flood. Hickey, who runs Sunnyhill Stud in Co Kildare, which has produced the Gold Cup winner Kicking King and the Grand National hero Hedgehunter, joined the committee in 1995 and has been on the board of Horse Racing Ireland since 2010.