Sapphire sparkles for Weld and Smullen
Report: Ascot, Saturday
Qipco British Champions Fillies' And Mares' Stakes (Group 2) 1m4f, 3yo+
SAPPHIRE followed stablemate Rite Of Passage into the winner's enclosure at Ascot on Qipco British Champions Day to give trainer Dermot Weld and jockey Pat Smullen a magnificent double.
The pair were all smiles after Rite Of Passage defied a 510-day layoff in the Long Distance Cup and had more reason to cheer following the daughter of Medicean's defeat of Shricco Star.
Last year's winner Dancing Rain was third with Irish Oaks heroine Great Heavens fourth.
It was a third win on the day for Irish raiders after the David Nagle-trained Maarek landed the Sprint and Weld was understandably delighted.
"This filly appreciates ease in the ground and she's unbeaten over a mile and a half," said Weld, who trains Sapphire for Moyglare Stud Farm.
"We were considering the Irish St Leger, but she just came into season so we missed it and prepared for this. It's very nice to have a double - Ascot's been a lucky track for me."
Sapphire benefited from a cool Smullen ride, the jockey biding his time as Kieren Fallon went for home on the consistent Shirocco Star.
The winner, who returned at 5-2, had no trouble picking her up and won by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
"I was very confident she'd run a big race, but it's always nice to ride a winner earlier in the day," said Smullen.
"They went a good pace and I was happy for Kieren to kick on and then go after her. In testing ground this filly comes into her own."