Song finds her tune as Weld and Orr get it right on the night in Irish St Leger
By his own symphonic standards, Dermot Weld’s season had only been trundling along barely audible until now but it burst into life on Sunday when Search For A Song finally found her tune to complete a sensational hour for the Rosewell House legend by plundering a decisive second Irish St Leger success. It was some crescendo.
Heading into the day, Weld’s seasonal Group-race haul comprised solely of Tarnawa’s win in the Give Thanks Stakes a month earlier.
For a training legend who unashamedly prides himself on consistently excelling in that sphere over a career that is just two years shy of 50, such a low yield will have stung.
More than most, though, Weld knows how to play the long game, and few races illustrate that philosophy better than this Comer Group International-sponsored showpiece. Indeed, the same is true of the manner in which Weld has gradually brought the Moyglare Stud-owned and bred Search For A Song to a peak.
Sixth of nine and thrashed 14 lengths on her Mooresbridge Stakes reappearance, she then endured the rare indignity of being pulled up on the Flat after clipping heels and stumbling in the Munster Oaks at Cork. Oisin Orr, in the saddle then, as now, was applauded here by Weld for minding the keen-running filly on that occasion, and both reaped a fine dividend back at the Curragh two months later.
In between, Search For A Song, who had surged into an early lead under Chris Hayes 12 months ago, hinted the spark was still there when finishing an honourable third behind Magical in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.
That choice piece of form wasn’t capitalised upon by the market as she returned an easy-to-back 7-1 shot, but Weld, with characteristic chutzpah, was adamant after the €400,000 event that he had her back at concert pitch.
“I’ve trained her for the day for a long time,” he explained, before adding of her and Tarnawa’s Vermeille exploits at Longchamp.
“Today was the day for both of them. I had wanted to get that Group 1 form into Search For A Song over a mile and a quarter in case people thought she was only a staying mare. You saw what Magical, who beat her in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, did, so I was quietly confident she’d win today.”
Search For A Song’s win saw Weld join Vincent O’Brien as the most successful trainer in the 105-year history of the race, this being his ninth victory following two for Vintage Crop, four with Vinnie Roe and Voleuse De Coeurs, who was also the last filly to take it before Search For A Song.
Orr, who shared the apprentice title with Andy Slattery last year and won it outright in 2017, now rides the lion’s share of Weld’s horses and played a key role in teaching Search For A Song to settle. Weld was eager to give Hayes, who has not ridden the Galileo four-year-old since their moment of glory here in 2019, credit as well, but she has been Orr’s project this year.
It was a slow burn that culminated here in a first Group 1 for the 23-year-old from Rathmullan in County Donegal.
“Dermot has shown a lot of faith in me,” said the towering rider. “It’s great to get opportunities like this and then be able to repay him – this was something I could have never dreamed of when I was young.”
Most of us would contend he is still pretty young, but he is riding with tremendous maturity. He switched his mount off on the inside at the rear of the field and rode a patient race, with market leader Sovereign setting the early fractions. When Orr angled Search For A Song out in the straight, she gradually responded to his urgings, eventually wearing down the Ebor hero Fujaira Prince to score by two lengths, with Twilight Payment keeping on for third.
“The filly settled well today and everything went smooth,” Orr added. “I had to make a bit of room for myself, but she picked up well when I got the gap.”
Paddy Power and Betfair responded by making Search For A Song 8-1 (from 14) for the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot next month. That is a meeting Weld has farmed over the years, and, now that he has found his groove again, it will doubtless be in his sights once more.
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