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Weld Wins UK Gr1 Ascot Gold Cup & Aims At Melb
Dual Gr1 Melbourne Cup-winning Irish trainer Dermot Weld (Vintage Crop 1993 & Media Puzzle 2002) produced another prime contender for this year's Flemington assault in the UK overnight & former Coolmore shuttler Giant's Causeway (Storm Cat-Mariah's Storm, by Rahy) added a Gr1 triumph when 6YO gelding & former jumper Rite Of Passage (Giant's Causeway-Dahlia's Krissy, by Kris S) smashed the track record to snatch victory by a neck in the £250,000 (A$433,000) Gr1 Ascot Gold Cup (2.5 miles) for 4YOs & up at Royal Ascot. In only his 3rd start on the flat, Rite Of Passage (ridden by Pat Smullen for Weld) wore down Ballydoyle's Irish-bred 4YO entire Age Of Aquarius (Galileo-Clara Bow, by Top Ville) after a 2-horse duel down the straight, with a further 6-lengths back to Irish-bred 7YO entire & 2007 Gr1 Melbourne Cup runner-up Purple Moon (Galileo-Vanishing Prairie, by Alysheba). Rite Of Passage (who descends in direct tail female line to champion European racemare Dahlia, his 3rd-dam) took his record to 7 wins & 2 placings from 10 starts (7 over jumps) & Weld, asked immediately if his new flat star would be aimed at this year's Melbourne Cup, told the media: "I think we already have the favourite for that race Profound Beauty, who beat Age Of Aquarius at Leopardstown (in winning last month's Irish Saval Beg Stakes over 14 furlongs). I have the race (Melbourne Cup) in mind for Rite Of Passage as well, but it's a long way off." However leading UK bookmaking firm William Hill quickly cut Rite Of Passage to just 10-1 for Melbourne. Rite Of Passage had also won his 2 previous starts on the flat (including the November Handicap at Leopardstown) & jockey Smullen enthused: "The race went to plan & when I asked, he quickened like the good horse we knew he was."