Dermot Weld equals Vincent O’Brien with a ninth win in Irish St Leger
Search For Song delivers at the Curragh as Donnacha O’Brien lands another Group One
Dermot Weld with Search For Song after his victory at the Curragh. Photograph: PA
Dermot Weld emulated the legendary Vincent O’Brien when Search For Song supplied the renowned trainer with a record-equalling ninth success in Sunday’s Comer Group Irish St Leger at the Curragh.
The man who has transformed the face of the sport both here and abroad had endured a frustrating gap at Group One level since Search For A Song landed the same race a year before.
But it was like buses on Sunday as Weld’s Tarnawa picked up the Prix Vermeille in easy fashion at Longchamp and just over an hour later Search For A Song hit a perfect double note in the feature event of the second leg of ‘Irish Champions Weekend.’
The Curragh card had earlier provided a glimpse of the future as Donnacha and Joseph O’Brien swapped Group Ones in the two big two-year-old events.
Aidan O’Brien’s youngest son, Donnacha, was provided with a first top-flight win in Ireland as a trainer when Shale got the better of the 11-10 favourite Pretty Gorgeous in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
In the following Goffs National Stakes it was Joseph O’Brien’s turn to score with Thunder Moon winning decisively from his brother’s fast-finishing outsider Wembley.
On the back of Galileo Chrome’s Doncaster Leger the day before - and O’Brien Snr landing a ninth Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday with Magical - it underlined the scale of the challenge in competing with such depth of resources.
None of it is new to Weld. At 72 he may baulk at such terms as ‘veteran.’ But since it is almost 50 years since he first started training these latest top-flight successes point to his supreme resilience and competitive drive.
Despite starting out when ‘MV’ O’Brien was in his pomp, and then having to cope with ‘AP’ O’Brien and the second-coming of the Ballydoyle empire over the last two decades, Weld has never flinched from the fight.
As a student of the game with an appreciation of its history, equalling the Leger record of perhaps the most significant figure of them all in Irish racing history won’t have been lost on him.
But there was also an acknowledgement that such days have to be appreciated fully when they come.
“When you win the Vermeille and Irish Leger on the same day, and you’re training 100 horses, which is no number of horses in Ireland nowadays, you get a very big kick,” he said.
In contrast to Weld it was a first ever Group One for Search For A Song’s jockey Oisin Orr. The Donegal rider, who tuned 23 recently, settled the 7-1 shot at the back and ultimately came through to overhaul the English raider Fujaira Prince by two lengths.
It meant the sole cross-channel Group One winner over the two days of Irish flat racing’s showpiece event proved to be Glass Slipper who scored for Tom Eaves and Kevin Ryan in Sunday’s Flying Five.
However just four years after Intricately’s Moyglare success gave Donnacha O’Brien a first Group One as a jockey, and his brother, Joseph, a first as a trainer, the siblings put their stamp on Champions Weekend with a vengeance.
On the back of Shane Crosse’s positive test for Covid-19, Joseph once again opted to skip going racing and it was his younger brother who welcomed back Thunder Moon for him in the National Stakes.
The 15-2 shot got the better of a rough race with a dramatic turn of foot in the closing stages under Declan McDonogh.
Thunder Moon was involved in scrimmaging under the furlong pole that saw the chances of one of the 2-1 joint-favourites Lucky Vega all but disappear.
“He showed great heart when he got a bit of room. He was always giving me the feel that he was going to run them down and he was very impressive.
“I’d say he’s got a serious will to win because when he got tight he just wanted to run by them again,” McDonogh reported.
McDonogh had to settle for second in the Moyglare though as better ground appeared to help Shale more than Pretty Gorgeous compared to their Debutante Stakes clash.
This time Shale got the best of it and gave Donnacha O’Brien a Group One winner in Ireland in his first season training to go with Fancy Blue’s wins in the French Oaks and the Nassau in Goodwood.
Shale’s next target is likely to be either the Prix Marcel Boussac or the Fillies Mile at Ascot.
A single cross-channel trained winner at Leopardstown on Saturday was followed by three on Sunday with Colin Keane securing a 136-1 double on the Richard Fahey trained pair, Shark Two One and Mr Lupton.
Keane had also on board perhaps the most popular winner of the weekend when Champers Elysees gave Johnny Murtagh a first Group One as a trainer in Saturday’s Matron Stakes.
So it was apt that Murtagh wound up it all up with another success as Sonnyboyliston routed his opposition in Sunday’s final race.