Dermot Weld pays tribute to ‘talented and courageous’ Rite Of Passage

Horse Racing

Ascot hero has died, aged 19.

Dermot Weld has paid tribute to 2010 Ascot Gold Cup winner Rite Of Passage after the Irish National Stud announced his death at the age of 19.

Trained by Weld for owner Dr Ronan Lambe, Rite Of Passage was placed twice at the Cheltenham Festival, taking third in the 2009 Champion Bumper before having to settle for the same position in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle the following season.

That defeat was followed by an audacious bid for Gold Cup glory at the Royal meeting and ridden by Pat Smullen, Rite Of Passage dug deep to fend off the challenge of Age Of Aquarius by a neck at odds of 20-1.

Rite Of Passage ran just twice more after that success, winning the 2012 British Champions Long Distance Cup off a 510-day break on what was the final outing of his 12-race career.

Weld said: “He got a brilliant ride from Pat Smullen and came back two years later to win the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day. He was difficult to keep sound, but he was an extremely talented and courageous racehorse. His performance in the Gold Cup was one of the best for many decades.

“He had a wonderful retirement in the National Stud, he looked magnificent and his fabulous care is a great credit to the team at the National Stud. When I went to see him recently, he came straight over to me and reminded me of what an outstanding individual he was.”

Pat Smullen salutes the Royal Ascot crowd
Pat Smullen salutes the Royal Ascot crowd (Sean Dempsey/PA)

INS CEO Cathal Beale said, “Coming on the back of the recent loss of Kicking King, it is a sad day to report the passing of Rite Of Passage. He was a lovely, gentle horse who lived out his days receiving the greatest of care from all the team here.

“I would like to thank his connections for entrusting him to us and pay special tribute once again to Leona Harmon who cares for all our horses with such great affection.

“He will be deeply missed by all of us.”

Follow us on Twitter racing365dotcom and like our Facebook page.

Race Cards