|Wednesday 24th September 2014|
Free Eagle a Likely Champion Stakes Runner
Patience, as we know, is a virtue, and using that criteria as a yardstick there’s little doubt that the connections of the exciting Irish colt Free Eagle are amongst the most virtuous in the business at the moment. It looks like their softly, softly approach with the tremendously impressive recent Leopardstown winner might well pay rich dividends at Ascot on October 18 in the Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes, writes Elliot Slater.
Having only the third run of his career – and his first of the 2014 campaign – Free Eagle, a very handsome son of High Chaparral, was sent off a warm 9/10 favourite in the horse racing betting for the Group 3 KPMG Enterprise Stakes at Leopardstown on Irish Champion Stakes day. Despite an enforced absence since his defeat at the hands of the subsequent dual Derby winner Australia on his second and final outing as a juvenile, there appeared plenty of stable confidence that the horse that had been spoken of as a potential superstar following his impressive debut win at Leopardstown the previous August when he slammed the subsequent Chester Vase winner Orchestra by over five lengths, still retained his ability.
In the race itself Pat Smullen rode Free Eagle with plenty of confidence, tracking the leaders until he decided to ask his mount to quicken on the home turn. Coming wide around his rivals, Weld’s colt showed a devastating change of gear and within a few strides had powered clear, eventually being eased right down to beat the useful Elleval by a ridiculously easy seven lengths.
Weld immediately nominated the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October as the likely next start for his exciting prospect, although connections haven’t completely ruled out the possibility of a bid for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on October 5. That race would be over 12 furlongs, (a distance Free Eagle has yet to tackle), but judging by the way he finished his race at Leopardstown over 10 furlongs, and being a half-brother to Weld’s Sapphire, winner of the 2012 Group 2 Qipco Fillies and Mares Stakes over the mile-and-a-half trip at Ascot, all the signs are that he would stay should connections decide to step him up in trip.
The latest odds indicate that most in the industry believe that Weld will likely stick with Plan A and head to Ascot, where he may well face a re-match with the only horse who has ever beaten him, Aidan O’Brien’s high-class Australia. The potential clash between the pair, together with the presence of other top-notchers at the distance such as French superstar Cirrus Des Aigles, Irish Champion Stakes and French Derby winner The Grey Gatsby, Breeders’ Cup Turf hero Magician, Eclipse Stakes winner Mukhadram, and Royal Ascot winner Eagle Top, could turn the Champion Stakes into an outstanding end of season finale.
Shopping round it is possible to find 11/4 for both Australia and Free Eagle, an indication of just how tight the potential race itself could turn out to be.