Dermot Weld – Ireland’s winning-most trainer – landed the 4,000th win of his training career last night following the victory of his three-year-old filly Sea Swift in the concluding maiden under stable jockey Pat Smullen. This achievement comes just three weeks after his first success in the Epsom Derby with the Aga Khan-owned Harzand.
His 3,999th winner came earlier in the evening, as Discipline justified favouritism in the Listed Oaks Trial Stakes for one of the yards biggest supporters in recent years, Khalid Abdullah. The Prince has been associated with Rosewell House for at least seven years and the combination tasted great success with Famous Name who won an impressive 21 races, 12 of which were at Group 2 and Group 3 level.
It was befitting that Sea Swift was to be number 4000 for two reasons, the first being that she is owned by Calumet Farm who have provided a lot of ammunition for the stable in recent years but also because the filly was bred by the Weld family.
The 21-time champion trainer took over the reins from father Charlie, on New Year’s Day in 1972 and made the best possible start, having two winners on the Baldoyle card – Spanner and Chevy Chase – the latter of which he rode to victory in the second bumper.
Since then he has gone from strength-to-strength, winning races at the highest level around the globe. These have included six Royal Ascot winners, a British 2,000 Guineas with Refuse To Bend in 2003, a Hong Kong Mile with Additional Risk in 1991 and two Melbourne Cup’s. The first victory in Melbourne came in 1993 with Vintage Crop at a time when equine travel was still very much in its infancy and plans to get him to the race in one piece were a year in the making. The second success came with the ill-fated Media Puzzle in 2002 for same owner Dr Michael Smurfit and ridden by Australian jockey Damien Oliver.
Look it’s a life’s work and it’s great not only for me but for my family and for my entire staff
“I knew I was getting pretty close to it but I didn’t want to make much about it,” reflected Weld. “Look it’s a life’s work and it’s great not only for me but for my family and for my entire staff.”
At 4,000 winners, the 67-year-old is around 1,500 winners clear of his nearest rivals Jim Bolger and Aidan O’Brien. Weld’s 1,000th win came courtesy of Slane Castle steered to victory by Mick Kinane 13 years on from the 1972 double. Smullen rode the 3000th winner for his handler aboard Fandango Dancer at Fairyhouse in June 2004, a month which saw Grey Swallow, bred by Weld’s mother Marguerite, claim Irish Derby honours.
History has every chance of repeating itself as Derby hero Harzand lines up against eight rivals in the Irish equivalent this weekend. The three-year-old colt by Sea The Stars overcame an 11th-hour scare to win the Epsom Classic in gutsy style from Ballydoyle’s US Army Ranger who will not be in line for a rematch.
In the build up to this weekend, the Curragh handler and his team have been hoping for steady downpours for their colt which have yet to materialise. Weld has left stablemate Ebediyin in the contest after his fifth-placed finish in the Queens Vase but fears the Epsom third Idaho who was just under three lengths behind Harzand last time out could prove a tough adversary.
Weld said: “We’ve said everything that needs to be said about Harzand. He is well but we want to see rain, it’s 20 degrees and no sign of it at the moment
“Idaho is a very good colt and it will be tough to beat him.”
Weld could easily make it 4001 before Harzand’s reappearance. He has a handful of runners over the three day meeting at Irish Flat racing’s headquarters, including the once-raced unbeaten colt Alishan by Rock of Gibraltar and Foxtrot Charlie who runs in the Listed Celebration Stakes.