‘Like A Lioness’: Defending Turf Champion Tarnawa Ready For ‘Bigger Challenge’ At Del Mar – Horse Racing News

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Tarnawa has long been penciled in for this year’s edition of the 1 1/2-mile race at Del Mar, veteran Irish trainer Dermot Weld revealed during an NTRA media teleconference on Wednesday, shortly after pre-entries for this year’s world championships were released. Weld believes the Aga Khan’s 5-year-old daughter of Shamardal is up to the challenge, despite questions about how she might handle the firm ground “Where the Turf Meets the Surf.”

“I think this is what makes a really true champion, if they can go and defend their crown over different surfaces a year apart,” Weld said. “This will be a bigger challenge than last year for her, due to the firmer ground. Equally, she is a really, really good racemare who responds to each challenge she gets.”

Tarnawa is pre-entered in both the Turf and the Filly & Mare Turf, but Weld said she would most likely run against males to defend her title in the Turf.

In order to facilitate her return trip to the United States, Tarnawa had a later-than-normal start to her 2021 campaign. She commenced with a win in the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown on Aug. 5, and was subsequently beaten just three-quarters of a length by St. Mark’s Basilica in the G1 Irish Champion Stakes on Sept. 11. In her third start this year, the mare put in a valiant effort to fall just shy of a win in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

“She fought like a lioness, and unfortunately we just came up short and the ground was extremely testing,” said Weld. “She’s a very brave filly, very tough, very genuine. She gives 110 percent every time she runs. When she came back from Paris she was tired for about a week, so we just took it easy with her… I’ve been very happy with her work for the past week.”

Weld, the 21-time champion trainer in Ireland, knows what it takes to win races internationally. A qualified veterinarian, Weld took over his father’s yard (Charlie Weld) at the age of 24 after gaining early experience on the backstretch of Belmont Park. He has since trained top-level winners on four continents, and he remains the only European trainer to win a leg of the American Triple Crown: the 1990 Belmont Stakes with the aptly-named Go And Go.

A year later, Weld sent raiders to Hong Kong and saddled Additional Risk to win the International Hong Kong Mile. In 1993, Weld became the first European trainer to send out a winner in Australia’s Melbourne Cup when Vintage Crop captured the “race that stops a nation.” He won a second Melbourne Cup with Media Puzzle in 2002, and has won a total of 10 stakes races in the United States.

Now 73, Weld is excited to travel to Del Mar for this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Due to pandemic restrictions he was unable to attend the races at Keeneland in 2020, so Weld had to celebrate the first Breeders’ Cup win of his career from afar. This year, Weld hopes to see Tarnawa rise to the challenge at Del Mar in person.

I appreciate that she handled what we would call good to firm ground in Kentucky, whereas I am well aware that what we face is going to be a lot quicker and is a concern,” Weld said. “I actually think she could be a slightly better mare this year. She’s developed every year, and she’s actually training a couple of kilos heavier than last year… She’s a very professional racehorse, with such a great constitution.”

Tarnawa will be ridden by Colin Keane in the Turf, reuniting her with the jockey who piloted her to victory at Keeneland. Keane rode Tarnawa for her first two starts this year, but Christophe Soumillon was up for the Arc. Weld explained that Soumillon is the Aga Khan’s retained rider in France, whereas Keane rides most of the horses in Ireland.

“(Keane) did win on her last year, and he gave her a perfect ride in the Irish Champion Stakes,” Weld said.

Weld also revealed that 2021 will be Tarnawa’s final season of racing. The mare is pre-entered in the Hong Kong International Races on Dec. 12, but whether or not she makes that trip will be dependent on how she runs in the Breeders’ Cup.

This entry was posted in Breeders’ Cup and tagged aga khan, ARC, arc de triomphe, Breeders’ Cup, breeders’ cup turf, Breeders’ Cup World Championships, charlie weld, Del Mar, dermot weld, irish champion stakes, Shamardal, tarnawa by Chelsea Hackbarth. Bookmark the permalink.