WINCHESTER and Mad About You are the two potential supertstars of the Dermot Weld stable.
That was the message to emerge from yesterday’s annual press-day at Rosewell House.
“The horses change, but the staff remain the same”, smiled Weld, as his charges limbered up, before heading across the road to the Curragh to do their work.
And sure enough Rosewell House stalwarts such as Raymond Carroll, Benji Coogan, Robbie Dolan and David Evans, as well as stable jockey, Pat Smullen, were all involved.
We watched as the Weld string came up the Old Vic gallop. He’s made a great start to the season, having already trained 16 winners and is leading the table both numerically and on prizemoney.
But you don’t reach the top of your profession by being unrealistic. “The horses are healthy and Pat (Smullen) is riding well”, said Weld. “But we are aware of the strength of the opposition and know our limitations.”
That Winchester is currently regarded as the most exciting inmate is beyond doubt. He is by Theatrical out of Rum Charger, both horses having been trained by Weld.
Once-raced as a juvenile, he only hinted at having ability when tenth of 17 behind Plan over seven furlongs at the Curragh in October.
He reappeared at Leopardstown earlier this month, stepping up three furlongs in trip. On offer as high as 8-1 in the morning, Winchester went to post a heavily-backed 3-1 favourite.
He didn’t disappoint, striding to a snug length and three parts defeat of of Aidan O’Brien’s reportedly highly-regarded, Moonstone.
“He’s very talented”, said Weld. “You never know, but we thought it would take a very good horse to beat him at Leopardstown.
“He is strong and powerful and I see him as an Irish Derby horse. He could go next for the Group 2 Derrinstown (Leopardstown), or wait for the Gallinule Stakes at the
Mad About You, a daughter of Indian Ridge, is also on the classic trail and giving her astute handler all the right vibes.
She was probably a little below top class last season, but has clearly thrived over the winter.
Mad About You finished her campaign with a third in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp on Arc weekend, having previously been a somewhat unlucky third behind Saoirse Abu and Listen in another Group 1, the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.
“She is working exceptionally well”, reported Weld. “She could start off in a Leopardstown trial, but more than likely will wait for the Irish 1000 Guineas.
“I have always thought of her as an Oaks filly, but she does show a fair bit of pace. Hopefully, we will have a long season with her.”
Famous Name, a more than useful two-year-old, made an excellent reappearance when taking a Group 3 at Leopardstown by four lengths.
The second and third respectively, Moiqen and Hebridean, subsequently dominated the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown.
“I don’t know yet whether it will be the Irish or French 2000 Guineas, more than likely it will be the Irish”, said Weld.
“He is fit and well and his form is working out. I am more than happy with his progress, but he does have a preference for soft ground.”
The four-year-old Danehill filly, Profound Beauty, could be set for a lucrative time, having made a satisfactory return when third to Red Moloney in the Alleged Stakes at the Curragh.
“She will go for the Blue Wind at Naas or the Mooresbridge Stakes at the Curragh”, said Weld. “If that works out then the Pretty Polly (Curragh) and travelling abroad would be the plan. She is a big mare and I think has a positive season ahead of her.”
Chinese White made a big impression on her only outing, taking a maiden by six lengths at Leopardstown last September.
“She could go for the McCalmont Stakes at Gowran Park on Sunday, but is backward of her coat and might need the run”, confirmed Weld. “She is taking time coming forward, but I hope will be good enough to contest the Epsom or Irish Oaks.”
Casual Conquest, also a Gowran possibility on Sunday for the mile and a half classic trial, is well worth a second glance.
“He won his only race as a two-year-old, at Leopardstown, and is a big, staying type of horse”, said Weld.
Some three-year-old maidens for the notebook! There’s the unraced Designated Decoy, by Danzig, “ think will represent us well”, said Weld.
Then there’s Daasij, Theocritus and Almolahek. Daasij made a reasonable start when eighth to Winchester at Leopardstown. “I think he’ll win his maiden and go on from there.”
Theocritus was sixth to Charlotte Bronte first time out at Naas and Almolahek was runner-up behind Takween at Navan on Sunday. Both can be expected to shed their maiden tag sooner rather than later.
Among the 120 in residence at Rosewell House are about 50 two-year-olds. Weld seems more than hopeful of a big showing from them, particularly in the latter half of the season.
Those who got favourable mention were Campaign Swing, by Sadler’s Wells and a full-brother to Refuse To Bend, Carefree Smile, by Invincible Spirit, Dance Pass (Sadler’s Wells), Naiazek (Refuse To Bend) and the Dalakhani filly, Perfectly Chilled.
Tian Shan, Campfire Glow, Domestic Fund, Unwritten Rule, Maryellen’s Spirit, Westlake and Matters At Hand are others who are expected to more than pay their way.
No visit to Dermot Weld’s, however, would be complete without mentioning the legendary Galway specialist, Ansar.
Now a sprightly 12-year-old, he appeared on very good terms with himself. “This will be his last year in training”, revealed Weld. “He will reappear on the flat and then have another crack at the Galway Plate.”