Dermot Weld targets first Breeders Cup success with Tarnawa

Christophe Soumillon replaced by Colin Keane after testing positive for Covid twice

A unique Irish flat season dominated by coronavirus winds up on Saturday with almost everyone's attention elsewhere on the Breeders Cup.

US racing's biggest meeting, which is being run behind closed doors, hasn't escaped the pall of Covid-19 either although it has worked in Colin Keane's favour.

Ireland's newly-crowned champion jockey will try to give Dermot Weld a first Breeders Cup success on Tarnawa in the $4 million (€3.3 million) Turf on Saturday night after her intended rider, Christophe Soumillon, twice tested positive for the virus in Keeneland on Friday.

Keane was in Keeneland for Siskin's final race in the Mile, along with his championship rival Shane Foley who rides Jessica Harrington's Cayenne Pepper in the $2 million (€1.6 million) Filly & Mare.


With Aidan O’Brien represented by half a dozen runners on Saturday night, the earlier official conclusion of Ireland’s flat season at Naas is inevitably overshadowed.

Programming puzzle

That action continues on the Dundalk all-weather on Monday underlines how Naas maintains a box-ticking theme which has mostly continued since racing resumed there in June after the first lockdown.

Over two months of previous inaction presented a programming puzzle that ensured a premium on persistence and perseverance.

Five subsequent months of racing behind closed doors has been a logistical triumph but otherwise often a stoical exercise in tenacity.

O’Brien will be confirmed champion trainer for a 23rd time and Keane has regained the jockeys championship he first won in 2017. At least Gavin Ryan will be at Naas to accept the award as champion apprentice.

Britain's flat season on grass also officially winds up at Doncaster and the change of focus to the jumps is immediate as Navan hosts a high-quality Ladbrokes Troytown Chase card on Sunday.

However, it is the second instalment of American racing’s self-styled “World Championships” that inevitably tops the weekend bill.

Dermot Weld, racing’s international pioneer who is 0 for 16 previous Breeders Cup runners, might be forgiven his luck is still out after Soumillon’s unfortunate diagnosis.

The Belgian star has been superb on Tarnawa in two Group One victories in France this autumn. Keane has a major task ahead of him although he has confidence on his side having hit 100 winners for the season in Ireland before flying to the US.

Along with O’Brien’s pair, Magical and Mogul, Taranwa is part of a major Irish challenge on the second most valuable contest on a programme that contains nine Grade One races in all.

The first of them is due off at 5.02 Irish time while the Turf is set to start at 9.33. It is the penultimate race before the $6 million (€5 million) Classic on dirt.

It’s not long since the Ballydoyle team would have flung one of their turf stars into the Classic mix but not this year.

Open race

Order Of Australia’s promotion from reserve gives O’Brien three runners in a Mile (off at 8.15) that has also proved frustratingly elusive over the years.

Even a true top-notcher such as Rock Of Gibraltar failed to get the job done in 2002 so the trio of Circus Maximus, Lope Y Fernandez and Order Of Australia face a major task.

Siskin will be a first Breeders Cup starter for Ger Lyons but in an open race the veteran Frankie Dettori could fancy his chances on the O'Brien second-string, Lope Y Fernandez, over an easy two-turn mile.

Earlier, the Italian rider is on Terebullem in a Filly & Mare (6.57) that sees Cayenne Pepper drawn in the figurative car-park in box 14 of 14.

Peaceful runs for O’Brien and will relish better ground than she got in the Sun Chariot last time. However, Terebullem should too and may represent a touch of betting value.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column