Rite of Passage (horse)

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Rite of Passage
SireGiant's Causeway
GrandsireStorm Cat
DamDahlia's Krissy
DamsireKris S
Foaled29 March 2004
CountryUnited Kingdom
BreederNewsells Park Stud
OwnerChristopher McHale
Dr Ronan Lamb
TrainerDermot Weld
Record11: 7-0-3
Major wins
Ascot Gold Cup (2010)
British Champions Long Distance Cup (2012)
European Champion Stayer

Rite of Passage is a British-bred, Irish-trained Thoroughbred racehorse best known for winning the Ascot Gold Cup and being named Cartier Racing Award for European Champion Stayer in 2010. His career was unusual in the fact that he established himself as a high-class performer under National Hunt rules before moving to flat-racing. His win in the Gold Cup came in his third start under flat rules.


Rite of Passage was bred by the Hertfordshire-based Newsells Park Stud. He was sired by the European Horse of the Year Giant's Causeway out of the mare Dahlia's Krissy. Since retiring to stud in 2001 Giant's Causeway has sired the winners of more than three hundred races, including 26 at Group One/Grade I level. His best winners include Shamardal, Aragorn and Eskendereya.[1] Dahlia's Krissy was a winner in the United States and a granddaughter of the Champion racemare Dahlia.[2]

Rite of Passage is inbred to both Roberto and Northern Dancer (see below).

Rite of Passage was sent to the Tattersalls October sale as a yearling where he was bought by Dermot Weld for 20,000 gns.[3] Weld trains the horse at his base near the Curragh. Rite of Passage has been ridden by Robbie McNamara in most of his National Hunt starts and by Pat Smullen in all of his flat races.

Racing career[edit]

2008/2009 season: National Hunt flat races[edit]

Rite of Passage began his racing career by running in National Hunt flat races or "bumpers". These are races designed to give experience to potential jumpers and are run at National Hunt meetings. Rite of Passage won one of these events, at Galway in August 2008, starting the 9/4 favourite and beating 19 rivals "very easily".[4] Six months later he reappeared at Naas in a similar event and won by six lengths from the odds-on favourite Quadrillon in February before being sent to the Cheltenham Festival for the Grade I Champion Bumper where Pat Smullen replaced the amateur Robbie McNamara as his jockey. The race appeared to lie between Rite of Passage, who was made 5/2 favourite, and another unbeaten Irish horse Dunguib.[5] Rite of Passage moved up to dispute the lead two furlongs out but looked outpaced in the closing stages and finished third, ten lengths behind Dunguib.[6] On his final "bumper" appearance at the Curragh in May he was made odds-on favourite, but finished fourth.

2009 Flat season[edit]

Rite of Passage was switched to conventional flat racing and won both his starts. As his wins had been under National Hunt rules he was still eligible to run in maiden races and was an odds-on winner of such a race at Ballinrobe in September. He was then sent to Leopardstown for a two-mile handicap. Smullen sent the gelding into the lead two and a half furlongs from the finish and soon went clear. Although he was eased down in the closing stages, Rite of Passage won by eight lengths from the favourite Donna's Palm.[7]

2009/2010 season: Novice hurdles[edit]

In the National Hunt season of 2009/2010, Rite of Passage was campaigned in Novice hurdle races. These are races for horses which have not won a race over hurdles before the start of the season. In January at Leopardstown he won on his hurdling debut, when his only danger came when he was carried wide by a loose (riderless) horse on the turn into the straight.[8] At Punchestown a month later he won another novices' race "comfortably" at odds of 2/7,[9] before returning to Cheltenham for the Grade I Baring Novices' Hurdle. For the second year in succession Rite of Passage was an unsuccessful Festival favourite, finishing third to the undefeated Peddlers Cross.

2010 Flat season[edit]

At Royal Ascot ran in his third conventional flat race, the Group One Ascot Gold Cup over two and a half miles for which he started a 20/1 outsider. Rite of Passage raced in third and survived a "barging match" with the tiring Akmal (for which Smullen was subsequently disciplined)[10] to challenge Age of Aquarius for the lead a furlong out. The two horses raced together to the line with Rite of Passage maintaining a narrow advantage to win by a neck.[11] It was his trainer's first success in the race after narrow failures with the notable stayers Vintage Crop and Vinnie Roe in 1994 and 2002 respectively. Weld emphasised the importance of stamina in the victory, quoting Lester Piggott who had reportedly told him that "there's a big difference between horses that go two miles and horses that go two and a half."[12]

The Irish St Leger was scheduled as Rite of Passage's next run, but he was withdrawn from the race after performing poorly in training,[13] A plan to run in the Melbourne Cup did not materialise, and Weld decided to rest the gelding in the winter, rather than campaigning him over hurdles.[14]

2011 Flat season[edit]

Rite of Passage did not run for more than eleven months after his Gold Cup win. On his reappearance he finished third to Fame and Glory in the Saval Beg Stakes. Although Rite of Passage lost his unbeaten record in flat races, Weld was "very pleased" with his horse's performance.[15]

Rite of Passage was aimed at a second Gold Cup, but had problems in training, and was ruled out of the race by Weld five days before the event.[16]

2012 Flat season[edit]

Rite of Passage did not reappear until October 2012, when he made a successful return to the course after 510 days by winning the British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot's Champions Day fixture.


Despite having run only one race in the 2010 flat season Rite of Passage was named European Champion Stayer at the Cartier Racing Awards.[17]

In the 2010 World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings, Rite of Passage was assessed at 118, making him the fourth best horse in the world in the Extended division behind So You Think, Americain and Arctic Cosmos.[18]


Pedigree of Rite of Passage (GB), chestnut gelding, 2004[19]
Giant's Causeway (USA)
Storm Cat
Storm Bird Northern Dancer*
South Ocean
Terlingua Secretariat
Crimson Saint
Mariah's Storm
Rahy Blushing Groom
Glorious Song
Immense Roberto*
Dahlia's Krissy (USA)
Kris S
Roberto* Hail To Reason
Sharp Queen Princequillo
Dahlia's Image
Lyphard Northern Dancer*
Dahlia Vaguely Noble
Charming Alibi (Family: 13-c)[20]
  • Rite of Passage is inbred 3x4 to Roberto. This means that the stallion appears in both the third and fourth generations of his pedigree. He is also inbred 4x4 to Northern Dancer.


  1. ^ "Giant's Causeway Stud Record". Bloodstock.racingpost.com. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  2. ^ "Rite Of Passage pedigree". Racing Post. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  3. ^ "Dahlia's Krissy (USA) statistics". Bloodstock.racingpost.com. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  4. ^ "Kerrymaid NHF race result". Racing Post. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  5. ^ Cook, Chris (2009-03-11). "news and views on day two of the Cheltenham Festival". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  6. ^ "Champion Bumper result". Racing Post. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  7. ^ "Leopardtown November Hcap result". Racing Post. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  8. ^ "Frank Conroy Hurdle result". Racing Post. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  9. ^ Armytage, Marcus (2010-02-17). "Rite of Passage heads for Cheltenham Festival". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  10. ^ J A McGrath (2010-06-17). "Dermot Weld realises his Gold Cup ambition". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  11. ^ "Gold Cup result". Racing Post. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  12. ^ Greg Wood (2010-06-17). "Dermot Weld finally wins Gold Cup". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  13. ^ "Cloud over Melbourne Cup trip". Herald Sun. 2010-09-08. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  14. ^ independent.ie apps (2010-11-23). "Weld unlikely to send Rite Of Passage over hurdles". Independent.ie. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  15. ^ "O'Brien settles on Derby quartet". London: The Independent. 2011-05-30. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  16. ^ "Passage out of Ascot Gold Cup". The Irish Times. 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  17. ^ Armytage, Marcus (2010-11-17). "Cartier Awards 2010". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  18. ^ "The 2010 World Thoroughbred Rankings". Horseracingintfed.com. Archived from the original on 2012-04-19. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  19. ^ "Rite of Passage pedigree". equineline.com. 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2012-07-02.
  20. ^ "Stray Shot - Family 13-c". Bloodlines.net. Retrieved 2012-07-02.