Weld ready to change his world

Ireland's most successful trainer for career move
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Campanologists looking forward to a good day's tolling at the expense of Dermot Weld can put their bells away for a while yet. After yesterday breaking the record for winners trained in Ireland, his announcement that he will drastically cut back his string from next year is not a tentative step to retirement, rather a "more selective racing strategy" and a desire to pursue more non-racing activities.

Campanologists looking forward to a good day's tolling at the expense of Dermot Weld can put their bells away for a while yet. After yesterday breaking the record for winners trained in Ireland, his announcement that he will drastically cut back his string from next year is not a tentative step to retirement, rather a "more selective racing strategy" and a desire to pursue more non-racing activities.

The reason for this bout of introspection is the achievement of a record with its provenance not in the last century, but in the century before and one that has endured since 1947. In a 51-year career that began in 1896, Senator J J Parkinson amassed an Irish record total of 2,577 winners. By the end of the seven-day Galway racing festival on Sunday, Weld had equalled the record and, 28 years on from his first victory, he yesterday made the record his own with Georgia Peach's success at Naas.

It was appropriate that he equalled the record at Galway. In 1972, his first year as a trainer, Weld trained and rode the winner of the first day's feature, and since then the patrician figure has been the punters' best route to the bookies' coffers. Yet, while meetings like Galway have sped him on his way, it is also likely that they will be the first to feel his absence.

"I'm working harder and longer now than I was 10 years ago. The hours demanded are too much," Weld said. But it would be impossible to imagine the trainer's unquenchable appetite being given to tweaking petunias and waiting for Gardeners' Question Time. "I still enjoy this life but I would enjoy it more with fewer horses. And there are other things that interest me."

These other interests revolve around the equine and the literary. "I've always thought I could write, I won an All-Ireland essay-writing contest while a student at Newbridge College and I've written some poetry.

"I've approached UCD [University College Dublin, from where Weld graduated as a veterinary surgeon at the age of 21] about doing a Masters. I believe there's a need for a book on how to train a racehorse.

"Training methods have changed enormously since I started in the Seventies and are constantly evolving. I've had a lot of interest, particularly from Australia, about doing a biography, but something about the worldwide travel of horses would be interesting as well."

With career prize-money in excess of £15m (an Irish record that even Vincent O'Brien could not match), some of the most significant contributors have been the 100-odd winners that Weld has sent out on four continents. If the World Cup of racing is a vision promoted by Godolphin, it was Weld' s round-the-globe exploits that first confounded the flat-earth theorists. He was the first European trainer to win the Hong Kong Bowl, with Additional Risk in 1992. He had the first European winner of a Triple Crown race with Go And Go in the Belmont Stakes - ever the perfectionist, he points out that it was not the first non-American winner as a Panamanian preceded him. But the life-size bronze of Vintage Crop at the Curragh is the best indicator of possibly his greatest achievement, training the first Northern Hemisphere winner of "the race that stops a nation", the Melbourne Cup in 1993.

Of the record, Weld says: "It means a lot. It's very important to me. It will be the summation of a life's work, a vindication."

Ted Walsh, the dual National winning trainer, was asked how a punter could best prepare to go racing. "Sit down by the fire and throw £10 notes into it. If that doesn't bother you, you're ready for racing." With fewer Weld runners to come to punters' assistance, those fires will burn brighter than ever.

Comments