Friday 23 February 2018

'A1' Eagle enjoying break

Free Eagle (left)
Free Eagle (left)

The Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes are the next races being considered for Royal Ascot hero Free Eagle.

Despite having been off the track since finishing an excellent third in last October's Champion Stakes, Dermot Weld's four-year-old knuckled down admirably to see off The Grey Gatsby and clinch his first Group One prize in the Prince of Wales's Stakes.

Free Eagle holds entries in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown and the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes back at Ascot during July, but he is set to bypass both and his next possible port of call is the Juddmonte International at York on August 19.

His main objective, however, is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October.

Fiona Craig, breeding advisor for owners Moyglare Stud, said: " He's absolutely A1 and I think we'll just look at all the options.

"There's the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes. Pat Smullen mentioned the King George the other day, but I think we'll probably stick to a mile and a quarter before stepping up to the mile and a half in the Arc. Pat is adamant he'll improve for stepping up in distance.

"I think Dermot will just let the horse tell him when he's ready, but he doesn't take a vast amount of work to get ready, so there is every chance he could be ready for York if he wanted to go there.

"A lot of people have him down as fragile, but he's not. He just had the stress fracture last year and he's obviously recovered well from that."

Craig is confident there is more improvement in Free Eagle, with his Ascot triumph just the fifth start of his career.

"H e's come out of the race great and he will improve again, I'm sure of that," she said.

"I know how hard it was to get him to Ascot. I honestly didn't think he'd make it three or four days beforehand, but it was a magnificent training performance from Dermot Weld and a magnificent ride from Pat Smullen.

"He just hadn't been sparkling in all of his work, but then he had been working with Fascinating Rock who then ran a blinder in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, so maybe it wasn't as bad as we thought.

"He is still an inexperienced horse having only run five times. I remember when he ran a great race in the mud at Ascot (Champion Stakes), Pat said the horse was down at the start thinking 'where am I'?

"Having missed the Tattersalls Gold Cup, going to Ascot was the only option if we didn't want to take on the Derby winner (Golden Horn) in the Eclipse and it was fantastic to see him win."

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