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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