Dermot Weld is in no rush to make concrete plans for his star fillies Tarnawa and Search For A Song.
Tarnawa enjoyed a spectacular campaign in 2020, winning each of her four starts including Group One wins in the Prix Vermeille, the Prix de l’Opera and the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Search For A Song was more of a slow burner, but peaked at the right time to successfully defend her crown in the Irish St Leger in September, before rounding off her season with a runner-up finish in the Long Distance Cup on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot.
“I’m in no hurry with the fillies and there will be lovely warm days later on for Tarnawa. Search For A Song has also wintered well and is in super form,” said Weld.
“Nowadays, with so much big racing in the second part of the year, I tend to hit our peak in September, October, November.
“I’ve no plans at present where they will start off as it’s a long year and I’m in no hurry with them.”
The master of Rosewell House is pleased with the overall strength of his team, even if he has less horses in training than in the past.
He added: “We have a quality team of horses this year, much less in numbers by design, but hopefully more quality than quantity.
“We are a couple of weeks behind some of the stables in fitness, but it’s a long year and we tend to get better as the year goes on.”
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Tarnawa will stay in training next season, with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe a long-range target.
The daughter of Shamardal was unbeaten in four starts this term, with her final three triumphs all at Group One level, including trainer Dermot Weld’s first ever win at the Breeders’ Cup meeting in the Turf.
Weld told the Irish Times: “The plan is for Tarnawa to stay in training next year, which is good news. We will look forward to training her for (an) autumn campaign again, which will hopefully include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
“She has improved each year, from two to three to four and it’s quite possible she could improve even a little bit more.
“She is very versatile in terms of ground and is an exceptionally talented filly.”
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Colin Keane has finally had time to reflect on a stellar season which was capped with a first Breeders’ Cup success on Tarnawa.
Keane admits getting the ride on Dermot Weld’s filly was simply a case of being in the right place at the right time – but with all bar one rival behind him turning into the straight, he advertised his talents on a world stage.
The landmark victory came on the back of him being crowned Ireland’s champion jockey for a second time – after a thrilling battle with Shane Foley – in a year in which he also rode his first two Classic winners on Siskin and Even So for his boss, Ger Lyons.
“It couldn’t have gone much better and winning at the Breeders’ Cup was just brilliant,” said Keane of 2020.
“The year started off with us winning a Classic with Siskin and then it went from strength to strength. We were lucky enough to win another with Even So, I won the Matron on Champers Elysees, winning the battle to be champion and topping it off with a Breeders’ Cup winner.
“Thankfully it all fell right for us. It was a hard year, especially giving up two weeks with quarantine (to ride Siskin in the Sussex Stakes), so we really had to knuckle down, but it was worth it.”
Keane cannot speak highly enough of Lyons, for whom Siskin and Even So were his first Classic successes, too.
“I’ve been riding for the right people, I ride for a great boss so I’m very lucky,” said Keane.
“I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without Ger to be honest, he got me going and has brought us to where we are.”
While Keane’s agent Ruaidhri Tierney cast his net far and wide in the search for winners in the closing weeks of the season, one trainer who did not employ the champion was Weld – yet when Christophe Soumillon was ruled out at the 11th hour having tested positive for Covid-19, it was Keane who was called upon.
“It was just a case of being in the right place at the right time last weekend,” said Keane.
“It’s not the way you want it to happen, but I’ll take it. Mr Weld isn’t someone I’ve ridden for much to be honest, so to get a ride in a big race and win on her for him is great.
“We’d talked about it (tactics) and while we didn’t make a plan as such, Mr Weld said he wanted me to either be on the inside or the outside, but not the middle – as she’s a filly who likes a bit of space and she has a very good turn of foot.
“Turning in I wasn’t looking to go between them, I just wanted to give her as clear a run as possible and she picked up very well.
“You’d like to think she’s up there with the best about, it is very hard to beat Magical, she’s one of the very best, rock solid and never runs a bad race. Going there you’d be thinking if you’re second to Magical you’ve run a good race. It takes a very good one to beat her.”
With two titles already in the bag, Keane is hopeful of keeping his momentum going into next season and he even picked up rides for Aidan O’Brien’s powerful Ballydoyle stable in the closing weeks.
“Every year we set a target to beat the previous year’s tally – I didn’t think that would be possible this year because of Covid and my quarantine, but my agent did a great job in getting me on the right horses and we got into a great rhythm,” explained Keane.
“It was September it all seemed to click, I had over 20 winners and it really got me going. I was lucky enough to team up with Aidan towards the end on a few spares with Seamie (Heffernan) suspended and Wayne (Lordan) injured and thankfully some of them won.
“I’ve a lot to thank my agent for, he’s done a very good job.”
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Dermot Weld is unsure what the future holds for Tarnawa after the filly provided him with his first Breeders’ Cup victory at Keeneland on Saturday.
The master of Rosewell House has enjoyed huge success on the international stage, with a pair of Melbourne Cup victories and multiple top-level wins in America featuring on his illustrious CV – but a Breeders’ Cup winner had so far eluded him.
However, Tarnawa put that particular anomaly right in spectacular style in Kentucky – and speaking from his County Kildare yard on Sunday morning, Weld spoke of his immense pride and delight.
“The Breeders’ Cup Turf is always one of the best races in the world and it was lovely to win it,” the trainer said on Racing TV’s Luck on Sunday programme.
“It feels exceptionally good – the Breeders’ Cup was the one major event I wanted to win a big race at.
“Nowadays I train 80 horses, so it’s a much smaller team than most of the opposition, so you’ve got to pick your spots very carefully and very well.”
Tarnawa’s chances of success had seemingly suffered a significant blow in earlier in the week after jockey Christophe Soumillon, who had steered her to successive Group One wins in France this autumn, was forced to miss the ride after testing positive for Covid-19.
However, recently-crowned Irish champion jockey Colin Keane proved a more than able deputy.
Explaining the sequence of events, Weld added: “Keeneland is a very tight turf track and it’s nice to know your horse as you need everything in your favour when you’re going into a race like the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
“She always breaks slowly, so we decided on Thursday that we’d school her out of the stalls on the track and arranged with Christophe Soumillon to do that, which he duly did.
“She jumped out nicely for him, Christophe was delighted with her, but an hour later I heard he was positive for Covid-19, so we needed a replacement jockey.
“I was extremely satisfied with my filly and the decision was whether to go for an American rider or wait and get a European rider.
“Javier Castellano has ridden winners for me and was available, Frankie Dettori was riding in the race (on Lord North) and I just thought ‘why not go with Colin Keane’. He was out there, he was riding in the Mile beforehand and he’s an outstanding young rider.
“Colin has only ridden for me once before, at Cork – usually he’s riding against me.”
Weld admitted the success was tinged with sadness as he thought of his former stable jockey Pat Smullen, who died earlier this year following a long battle with cancer.
“The only aspect of the great victory of last night that was sad was thinking how much Pat would have enjoyed riding Tarnawa,” said Weld.
“They were basically made for each other because she’s a tough filly and a classic stayer with speed – she’s the sort of horse that Pat rode exceptionally well.”
On whether Tarnawa will return to race on as a five-year-old in 2021, the trainer added: “No decision has been made on whether she will be retired or whether she’ll be racing again next year.
“We’ll see how she comes out of the race. His Highness (Aga Khan, owner) has a history of retiring fillies at the end of their three or four-year-old career, so whether an exception will be made for her or not, I don’t know.
“She’s an amazing filly in that she won on very fast ground in America last night and she’s won on very heavy, testing ground a few weeks ago in Paris.”
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Dermot Weld and Colin Keane teamed up to great effect as Tarnawa stormed to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland.
Crowned champion jockey once again in Ireland, Keane was replacing the luckless Christophe Soumillon, who also missed a winning ride on Order Of Australia in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. It was his first ride for veteran trainer Weld, who was also enjoying his first Breeders’ Cup success.
Tarnawa could have gone for the Filly & Mare Turf, but connections chose this stiffer task for the in-form three-year-old, who had won the Prix Vermeille and Prix de l’Opera on her last two starts for her owner the Aga Khan.
Keane had her at the back of the field as Channel Maker and United set the pace, with Aidan O’Brien’s Magical in a handy position not far off the lead.
Channel Maker set sail for home at the top of the straight, but the pack closed in a furlong out with Keane producing Tarnawa with a perfectly-timed run that saw her keep Magical at bay by a length. Channel Maker was another length away in third.
Weld’s son, Mark, said: “It doesn’t get any bigger than this. These overseas prestige races in the autumn are what we train them for and I’m sad my dad is not here, but the Covid situation put paid to that.
“It was Colin’s first ride for us and there were no instructions. We left it completely up to him and as soon as I saw Colin pull her out, it was a like a jet seeing a runway and off she went.
“My father has been a long-standing supporter of American racing ever since Go And Go won the Belmont back in 1990. He worked in the United States as a boy and it’s very special to him.”
Keane said: “Mr Weld gave me a call and told me what was happening, and then he rang again today and said it would have been lovely if I’d sat on her before, because she takes a bit of knowing.
“They had worked with her at the stalls while she had been here and when I spoke to Oisin Orr he said the filly had done one of her pieces of work before she left Ireland.
“It’s been a brilliant year, it’s lovely to get this victory going home and it’s definitely the icing on the cake for the year we’ve had.”
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Dermot Weld has confirmed Tarnawa will head to the Breeders’ Cup meeting at Keeneland following her victory in the Prix de l’Opera at ParisLongchamp.
The four-year-old will have the choice of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf or the Turf, where she would take on colts and geldings.
Weld admitted leaning more towards the Turf should the ground be firm as it is over her optimum distance of a mile and a half compared to the mile and a quarter of the Filly & Mare race.
“The present plan is Champions Day will come too soon because she has had a busy couple of months,” Weld told Sky Sports Racing.
“She was a good winner at Group level here in Ireland in August and I just feel the extra time to the Breeders’ Cup would be beneficial.
“No decision will be made yet whether it will be the Filly & Mare or the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
“I would like to see nearer to the day. It will be early November and I’ve been in Kentucky when they’ve had snow at that time of year, so don’t take it for definite the ground would be firm.
“Those factors will come into my mind.
“If it was fast ground, we might look more at the mile and a half (Turf).
“You must remember she’s won three Group races over a mile and a half. She is very effective over that distance.”
Weld reported Tarnawa to have taken the Opera in her stride.
“She came back immediately after the race yesterday evening,” said the County Kildare trainer.
“She’s in great shape and was out in the field this morning and was as happy as could be.
“She’s a very good filly to win those two Group One races (Prix Vermeille and Opera), so competitive, back to back – (it) was a big achievement.
“We weren’t sure she’d handle the ground with the speed she has, whether she would as effective on that surface, was my concern.”
While Tarnawa may not be heading to British Champions Day at Ascot, Weld has yet to decide whether his dual Irish St Leger heroine Search For A Song goes for the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.
“The decision will be made whether she goes to Ascot on Champions Day for the Long Distance Cup,” he said.
“We’ll look forward to training her next year and win another Irish St Leger with her.
“She’s not the easiest lady in the world. Things just didn’t go her way earlier in the year. She has had her moments. It was a matter of regaining her confidence and that’s what we achieved.”
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Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa came with a late flourish to catch Alpine Star close home in the Prix de l’Opera at ParisLongchamp.
Tarnawa had shown she was a top-class filly when winning the Prix Vermeille three weeks ago in good style, and was among the favourites to follow up.
Her main rival was Jessica Harrington’s Alpine Star, who had gone close in the French Oaks and Prix Jacques le Marois after winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Given a bold ride by Shane Foley, Alpine Star attempted to see them all off by kicking early in the straight and soon plenty were in trouble.
James Fanshawe’s Audarya, who sprang something of a surprise in the Prix Jean Romanet, began to make ground on the far rail while Tarnawa came down the middle of the track.
Alpine Star was still in front with 100 yards to run, but Christophe Soumillon rides Longchamp as well as anyone and had timed his challenge to perfection.
There was a sense of inevitability as Tarnawa was catching with every stride and she got there just in time, meaning Alpine Star was second in her third Group One in a row.
Weld’s son Mark told Sky Sports Racing: “That was a very special performance, it’s very hard to win here in France.
“She won the Vermeille and to come back just three weeks later, she’s a really tough, courageous mare.
“This is always one of the best races – sometimes the best race of Arc weekend, we knew it was going to be tough and we knew the Niarchos filly (Alpine Star) had plenty of Group One form, she was always going to be the one to beat.
“We got there, it was a fantastic performance.”
He added: “We’ll have to discuss her future with His Highness (Aga Khan). She gets a free entry into the Breeders’ Cup, I believe, which is definitely a possibility.
“Whether she comes back next year will be up to His Highness and all the team. It’s fantastic, but she’s won two Group Ones now so we’ll enjoy today.”
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