Friday 6 December 2019

Eagle soars to Enterprise glory

Free Eagle made a quite stunning return to the racecourse after a year's absence in the KPMG Enterprise Stakes at Leopardstown.

Billed as a Derby horse for Dermot Weld as soon as he made his debut at this course in August of last year, he was then beaten six lengths by none other than Australia in the corresponding renewal of the John Deere Juvenile Turf Stakes.

That was Free Eagle's last start as he was sidelined with injury but he came back with a swagger as 9-10 favourite, with Pat Smullen sitting off the pace set by stablemate Rock Critic before cruising into the lead on the home turn and allowing his mount to stride seven lengths clear.

Weld said: "He did it very impressively. It's a case of what might have been, but such is life. He's come back nicely and we'll see how he comes out of it. He's very laid-back and it was difficult enough to get him as fit as I wanted for today, but he was pretty right. He should improve, naturally.

"He'll have one more run and the English Champion Stakes looks the logical race. He's entitled to a crack and that's the plan. He's just a very good horse and he's done it very very well. It's just a worry now that he stays sound and right.

"He had a stress fracture of his tibia in the spring and was stood in his box for 12 weeks. Today was the very first day that it was practical to run and it was the right race to bring him back in. Losing him was a huge blow but thank God he's back. Pat was thrilled with him."

Toe The Line got the better of a desperate finish to the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. 'Petingo' Handicap.

A 7-1 chance for the respected John Kiely yard, the five-year-old mare has been in excellent form all year and was produced with delicate timing by Fran Berry.

Winter Lion tried to slip the field around the home turn but a whole host of challengers came to the fore inside the final furlong, with Toe The Line getting to the post a neck in front of Cassells Rock and Silwana.

Kiely said: "She's always been promising and showed a lot from day one. She's been unlucky once or twice. She ran well behind the Galway Hurdle winner at the Curragh and the trip was too short in Killarney.

"She'll probably stay on the Flat for a while. I thought she would be going jumping. They went a good gallop today which helped. The prize-money is high and it's a good day to have a horse for."

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