Weld contemplating Prix Vermeille raid for Zhukova
Resurgent trainer pleased with string’s recent recovery from virus
Ryan Moore on board The Grey Gatsby comes home just ahead of Australia to win the 2014 Irish Champion Stakes. Dermot Weld’s runner will bid for glory again this year. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Dermot Weld’s prediction that his resurgent team would be firing on all cylinders by Irish Champions Weekend appears on target although it is Chantilly’s Prix Vermeille which could emerge as Zhukova’s Group One goal on Sunday week.
Zhukova’s Man O’War Stakes victory in May bucked the trend of a virus-affected first half of the season for Weld’s powerful Curragh yard and she holds a number of Champions Weekend engagements including the €1.25 million QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes itself.
However Weld is contemplating routing the mare to France instead and letting her take part in the mile-and-a-half Vermeille, a traditional trial for the Arc in October.
“The Vermeille is a distinct possibility. But we’ll wait and see what the weather is going to do before deciding anything with Zhukova,” he said of a star performer who last raced in the Pretty Polly Stakes when fourth to Nezaaah.
That was at the height of the virus problems Weld has endured this year and which hampered his traditionally strong challenge at the Galway festival.
However it was just before the Ballybrit festival that the legendary trainer revealed he believed his string had turned a corner and he would target Champions Weekend to be back in full swing.
“We actually had a couple of winners at Galway, then a Group victory at Cork [Eziyra] and they have started to run very well again since. We believe they’re all, with a few little exceptions, fine again. We’re actually back a little sooner than I thought we would be,” he said on Monday.
“We were hit by a silent virus which we identified in May and it just takes time to run its course. There’s no magic cure for these viruses, no magic formula, either for horses or humans. If there was the common cold would have been eliminated years ago,” Weld added.
The Rosewell team have been making up for lost time in both codes over the last fortnight, just in time for Champions Weekend, and Weld is preparing the event’s 2014 headline topper, The Grey Gatsby, for his own possible rejuvenation.
The Grey Gatsby hasn’t won since memorably beating Australia in the 2014 Irish Champion Stakes and was switched to Weld for this season. He hasn’t fired in three starts in 2017 but his new trainer is hopeful of much better to come.
“The Grey Gatsby will run in the Irish Champion Stakes. He ran over a mile and a half in the Ballyroan Stakes but this will be his right trip and I think he can represent us very well and maybe turn back the clock,” said Weld.
The Leopardstown maiden winner Chiara Luna is also on course to represent the sponsors in the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes.
“She will have learned a lot from winning a good maiden over six furlongs. She lacks experience and wants seven furlongs or a mile. But all being well she’ll run in the Moyglare,” Weld added before indicating Eziyra could return to action too in the Blandford Stakes on the same Curragh card.
Ruby Walsh travels to Ballinrobe’s Tuesday evening card for a single spin on the Tony Martin-trained veteran Ted Veale in a conditions chase. He faces a tough task on ratings though against Don’t Touch It.
Jessica Harrington’s runner has a touch of class and although he wouldn’t like very soft ground he could still have too much finishing toe for Ted Veale.
Major Destination made an encouraging debut over fences at Killarney last Thursday and can successfully step up from that in a Beginners Chase where Logical Song looks a logical danger.