Sunday 21 January 2018

Weld plays down Free Eagle expectations

Dermot Weld: Free Eagle's Leopardstown aim
Dermot Weld: Free Eagle's Leopardstown aim
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

A pivotal seven days await two precocious Eagle-titled Classic prospects, as Dermot Weld has revealed that his Free Eagle could follow Sunday's Curragh outing for Ballydoyle's Great White Eagle with a date at Leopardstown on Saturday week.

Ever since readily disposing of five individual winners in a conditions race on his Naas debut at the beginning of the month, Great White Eagle has had the Group Three Go And Go Round Tower Stakes as his stated target.

As a top-priced 14/1 shot for next year's 2,000 Guineas, the 760,000 guineas breeze-up purchase is among Aidan O'Brien's leading hopes for the opening Classic of 2014, so Sunday's six-furlong contest will be informative.

In contrast, Free Eagle's next outing had been a matter of some conjecture since a stylish thrashing of the subsequent easy Tipperary winner Orchestra at Leopardstown – form enhanced by yesterday's Killarney win of fourth-placed Kingfisher – saw him elevated to 10/1 favouritism for next year's Epsom Derby. However, Weld said that he could get the chance to soar once again in the Group Three ICON Breeders' Cup Trial over the same mile trip on Irish Champion Stakes day.

"It is quite possible that he might run in the Group Three," the master of Rosewell House confirmed. "It is a very nice stakes race and it is more than likely that he will run there."

The smooth manner of Free Eagle's near six-length victory on his track bow left many convinced that the Moyglare Stud's home-bred son of High Chaparral is the real thing, to the point that the next best in many bookmakers' Derby lists – Ballydoyle's Indian Maharajah – is now as much as twice his price. Unsurprisingly, Weld diffuses the notion of the colt being his most exciting prospect yet for the world's premier Classic.

"There is a lot to come from him, but I must stress that he has only won a maiden so far," the handler suggested, though he conceded of Free Eagle's initial performance: "He didn't surprise me, he has always shown talent, but he did it more impressively than I expected."

On Saturday, John Gosden's 2,000 Guineas market leader Kingman is set to tackle the Solario Stakes at Sandown. There will also be Classic clues aplenty when Charlie Hills' Kiyoshi and O'Brien's Tapestry, respective favourites for the 1,000 Guineas and Epsom Oaks, clash in a mouth-watering edition of Sunday's Moyglare-sponsored Curragh feature.

The latest entries have also been unveiled for this season's final Classic, the Doncaster St Leger on September 14. After Michael Stoute elected not to supplement Telescope for the mile-and-six-furlong Group One in favour of a tilt at the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October, Ballydoyle's Leading Light hardened to as low as 4/1 co-favouritism alongside David Wachman's Galileo Rock and Gosden's Excess Knowledge.

Foundry, second to Telescope on its belated return at York last week, is among three other potential starters for the elite Tipperary outfit. Intriguingly, the improving Aga Khan-owned Dabadiyan, a triple winner in lesser company this summer, could also turn out for Mick Halford, whose Massiyn was cruelly denied by a head in the Irish equivalent last autumn.

"He will also be left in the GAIN Irish St Leger," Halford reported of the Doncaster contender. "We haven't made a decision yet, but he will have a racecourse gallop nearer the time."

Meanwhile, Coolmore report that St Nicholas Abbey was "comfortable and walking as well as can be expected" after further surgery on Monday to remove a broken steel weight-bearing pin that had been inserted in his leg after he sustained a life-threatening fracture.

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