Eagle can soar above Ascot rivals for Smullen and Weld
After the frustration of Zawraq's enforced Derby absence, Dermot Weld is today poised to unleash the massively exciting Free Eagle for a first time this season in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Make no mistake, this is a thoroughly salivating prospect. Last year, Free Eagle was denied any participation in the Classics due to an injury that kept him sidelined until the autumn.
A similar fate now awaits Zawraq, but Free Eagle has the capacity to go a long way to atone for the disappointment of Rosewell House's latest lost Derby opportunity. Beaten only by Australia in the second of his two juvenile starts in 2013, he finally reappeared as a three-year-old on Irish Champions Weekend last September.
The High Chaparral colt devoured the opposition in a 10-furlong Group Three, before being carried out on his shield when third to the mud-loving Noble Mission and Al Kazeem on deep ground in the Champion Stakes. That was a fine effort in trying conditions on what was just his fourth racecourse outing, so he is fancied to make a successful return for Pat Smullen.
Free Eagle's best performance was last year's stunning Leopardstown triumph on fast ground, so he shouldn't be inconvenienced by the prevailing quick conditions here, unlike his fellow Moyglare Stud-owned Forgotten Rules.
There might yet be a doubt over Forgotten Rules' Gold Cup participation should the underfoot terrain not ease either by the will of God or the Ascot clerk of the course, but he remains a solid 5/2 favourite for tomorrow's marathon Group One after emerging among 14 final declarations - including Willie Mullins' 2013 runner-up Simenon - for the race.
In today's 10-furlong Group One, Free Eagle's main rivals include The Grey Gatsby, Ectot and Western Hymn. As John Gosden and Frankie Dettori's representative, the improving Western Hymn must be respected, but it is doubtful that he has come on enough to be competitive enough at this level. Ectot hasn't run since self-destructing in last year's Arc, so The Grey Gatsby is surely Free Eagle's chief danger, notwithstanding that Ryan Moore has passed him over in favour of Michael Stoute's Cannock Chase.
Jamie Spencer should be able to produce The Grey Gatsby late in what is likely to be a fast-run race, which could see him have a big say after a middling Curragh outing that will have left him cherry ripe for this challenge.
The Jersey Stakes - won by Weld's Mustajeeb last year - looks a penalty kick for Richard Hannon's dual 2,000 Guineas third, Ivawood. However, Richard Hughes' mount isn't one to trust at short odds. There are four Irish raiders on duty in the seven-furlong Group Three. Mick Halford's Toscanini is another that doesn't inspire faith, while Willie McCreery's Irish 1,000 Guineas third Devonshire is charged with advertising the form of Pleascach, which tackles tomorrow's Ribblesdale.
Father Frost and Sir Isaac Newton are Aidan O'Brien's only runners of the day, and they might conspire to give the Ballydoyle genius a third win in four years in the race. Sir Isaac Newton was second to Zawraq on its sole outing as a juvenile and didn't get home over 10 furlongs at Chester in May.
He still looked green when successful on dropping back to this trip at Gowran Park, but he did enough to draw readily clear of Stop And Linger, a winner at Fairyhouse since. As a 3.6m-guinea acquisition, Sir Isaac Newton is a long way from where he might have been expected to be, but he could begin fulfilling his potential here under Ryan Moore, with Father Frost presumably set to be charged with ensuring a decent pace.
In the Royal Hunt Cup, Ger Lyons' consistent Piri Wango is another raider with an each-way shout from a high draw under Colin Keane.
Selections - 2.30 Sir Isaac Newton 3.05 Rah Rah 3.40 Integral 4.20 Free Eagle 5.00 Piri Wango 5.35 Tazffin