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Last Updated: June 17, 2010 6:46pm
Rite Of Passage (right) wins the Gold Cup.
International campaigner Dermot Weld avenged the narrow defeats of Vinnie Roe and Vintage Crop in the Gold Cup as Rite Of Passage gallantly claimed the highlight on Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot.
The Curragh maestro is no stranger to global success with trophies from two wins in the Melbourne Cup as well as the Belmont, American Oaks and American Derby amongst numerous other prizes decorating his Rosewell House base.
The stayers' showpiece on day three of the Royal meeting was one major event to slip though his grasp though, with Vinnie Roe finishing a neck second in 2002 and Vintage Crop also runner-up by three-quarters of a length in 1994.
Dual purpose campaigner Rite Of Passage changed all that as the Cheltenham Festival third provided Weld with a 14th Royal Ascot win at the expense of Aidan O'Brien's Age Of Aquarius.
It was fitting that a Ballydoyle inmate posed the biggest threat to the 20-1 winner as the O'Brien camp attempted to carry on the good work of record-breaking four-time winner Yeats.
Age Of Aquarius made a good fist of it too by leading well before the turn for home and only finding the winner too strong
inside the final furlong.
The two giants battled with great heart to the line with Rite Of Passage just gaining the upper hand by a neck under Pat Smullen, who was suspended for four days (July 1-2 and 4-5) for careless riding.
The pair were six lengths clear of Purple Moon with better-fancied rivals Ask and Manifest both finishing down the field.
Rite Of Passage was racing on the level for the first time since winning at Leopardstown last autumn, and Weld said: "The plan was hatched a long time ago.
"It's a race I've always wanted to win and two previous runners, Vinnie Roe and Vintage Crop, finished second so I thought it could be third time lucky.
"We had a good draw and obviously we discussed it with Pat, he's a world class rider and I totally left the decisions to Pat how to ride the horse.
"The owner (Dr Ronan Lambe) loves to have runners at the big meetings and this is my 14th winner at Royal Ascot.
"I have been beaten twice in this race with no excuses and this is a special day as it is a race I always wanted to win.
"I love stayers and the challenge of keeping them sound and right.
"This is a race which should be retained and is one of the greatest races in the world."
When asked if Rite Of Passage could fill the void left by the now retired Yeats, Weld said: "Only time will tell but he is a very young horse. We have given him time to develop and he is developing into a lovely young horse.
"Today was his first big Flat target and the Melbourne Cup is his second.
"I suspect he'll reappear in the Irish St Leger and we'll see how time progresses. He's an obvious Champion Hurdle prospect in years to come but we'll just take one day at a time."
The Gold Cup was just the third win at the meeting for Smullen, who has been crowned Irish champion jockey four times.
He said: "Words cannot describe how I feel and to win the Ascot Gold Cup is any jockey's dream.
"To win the race in such a battle is also a dream and it was such a tough and dogged performance.
"Any chinks in the armour are exposed in a race like this and our horse is tremendously tough and has great ability.
"He has done nothing but improve and there is no reason why he can't continue to do so.
"Getting beaten on Vintage Crop was hard to take but makes this even sweeter."
Age of Aquarius did not go down without a battle and his part-owner, Derrick Smith, said: "He ran very respectably - I thought he was going to get swamped a furlong out but he kept going and stayed every yard.
"He was beaten by a better horse on the day. You have to be delighted, although you are obviously disappointed to only just get beaten."
Jockey Johnny Murtagh, who was suspended for three days (July 1,2 and 4) for using his whip with excessive frequency, added: "I thought he had it turning for home but he was caught in the last 60 yards.
"He is a very brave horse and I am sick."
Luca Cumani, trainer of 2007 Melbourne Cup second Purple Moon, added: "I would be inclined to stay over here and look at races like the Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale, although I have spoken to the owner and we will probably put him in the Melbourne Cup again too."
Ryan Moore partnered 11-4 favourite Ask but reported the ground to have been too quick while Tom Queally said 10th home Manifest did not stay the two-and-a-half-mile trip.