By Pat Keane
THE King of Ballybrit, Dermot Weld, struck for a third time in the Hewlett-Packard sponsored Galway Plate yesterday when Ansar battled gamely to beat top weight Risk Accessor to take the €103,725 first prize.
The master of Rosewell House on the Curragh, whose ability to plunder big race prizes not only in Ireland but around the world is legendary, reckoned the secret of victory yesterday was that he was afraid to run the horse over fences since this race last year for fear he would go up in the weights.
Weld's fabled judgment was not found wanting and Ansar now joins Grey Swallow and Simple Exchange as big race winners he has produced this season.
Grey Swallow, who was first seen winning in Galway as a novice last year - ironically also on July 28 - went on to win this year's Budweiser Irish Derby.
Meanwhile, Simple Exchange last weekend won the American Derby at Chicago's Arlington Park for the stable for the third time in five years.
Ansar now joins the list of big winners for Rosewell House.
Weld had previously been successful in the Plate with General Idea and Kiichi, but Ansar went one step further yesterday, becoming the first horse since Knight Errant to complete the Galway Plate-Hurdle double.
Ansar landed the Hurdle back in 2001, although Knight Errant did it the opposite way round, the Plate coming his way in 1957 and the Hurdle the following year.
But it may take some time for these achievements to sink in within the Weld camp, such are the accolades coming their way so far this season.
But as ever, the trainer's feet were firmly rooted to terra firma, following this latest big race victory.
"I refused to run this horse over fences since last year's Plate because I was afraid of him going up in the weights," said Weld.
"He had his mark and I was taking no chances. Direct Bearing (he finished fourth yesterday) and Mutakarrim both went up for winning before Galway.
"If I had run Ansar he probably would have won and been raised maybe 5lbs.
"If that had happened he wouldn't have taken this Galway Plate."
David Casey gave Ansar a masterly drive, down the inside throughout.
"It worked out the way I had planned along," said Casey.
"I rode him in the Plate last year and always thought he was capable of winning this race.
"He ran really well at the Curragh on Derby day and I went to Dermot and asked if I could have the ride again at Galway.
"I was terrified because as many as 20 jockeys might be trying to get on him.
"He said 'yes', but he stressed I would have to do better than last year. I promised I would," Casey reported.
Ansar had finished fourth last year to Nearly A Moose, after doing most of his work towards the outside.
Said Weld: "It's true David came to me after Grey Swallow had won the Derby looking for the ride on Ansar.
"I said okay, but did tell him it would have to be a better effort than last year. David made no mistake this time, he gave my horse a fantastic ride," the trainer commented.