Free Eagle flies highest at Ascot
Dermot Weld won the feature race on day two of Royal Ascot, the Group One Prince of Wales’s Stakes, with the lightly-raced Free Eagle. The High Chaparral four-year-old, sent off the 5/2 favourite, just held on by a short-head from The Grey Gatsby, trained by Kevin Ryan.
Free Eagle has had an interrupted training programme, having suffered a stress fracture to the tibia in 2014, and his preparation for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes was also less than ideal as the horse picked up a cold a few weeks ago.
Weld said: “He got a brilliant ride from Pat [Smullen]. He’s a very good horse and when you’ve a brilliant horse like him, it makes the training easy.
“But he hasn’t been easy, he has had a lot of problems. He had a heavy head cold a couple of weeks ago, and I thought today was going to be very much in doubt, but we got him right on the day that matters. Fitness was my biggest concern – he hasn’t run for nine months – and I had him as good as I could have him with the limited preparation he had. He gallops low to the ground, he’s a lovely stayer, he sticks his head out and he battles.
“But you can’t force fitness, and ideally the race was two weeks too soon. I did have huge confidence in the horse and his ability, though. It was a calculated risk and a personal triumph for me.
“Today was the day, but we’ve been lucky with races like the Irish Champion Stakes, and I’ve always thought the Arc would be his long-term objective.
“Pat [Smullen] gave him his usual brilliant ride and seized the opportunity.”
When asked whether Forgotten Rules would take his chance in Thursday’s Gold Cup, Weld said: “We’ll see what the ground is like tomorrow. Not that I want soft ground – just safe ground for all these horses.”
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