herald

Monday 21 August 2017

Eagle on course

With a number of retirements and soft ground looking set to dramatically take away from Saturday's Champions Day at Ascot, Dermot Weld's Free Eagle remains firmly on course for his intended assignment in the QIPCO Champions Stakes.

Weld's three-year-old is one of 12 remaining in the field following yesterday's latest forefit stage but one of that dozen was the Irish Champions Stakes winner The Grey Gatsby who has already been ruled out due to soft ground.

Free Eagle has always held a lofty reputation but was forced to miss much of this season following a setback earlier in the year. However, he made a facile winning return to action in the Group Three KPMG Enterprise Stakes at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend last month.

The Moyglare-owned colt is just headed in the market by French raider Cirrus Des Aigles and Weld, who is enjoying one of his finest seasons, is not worried about stepping his charge up to the very top level.

He said: "Free Eagle is very well, in really good form. I am not concerned about the quality of my horse, I am convinced that he is up to this class."

Weld has also left Forgotten Rules in the Long Distance Cup where he could begin a rivalry with Ascot Gold Cup winner Leading Light.

As well as Leading Light topping that field, O'Brien has left Ruler Of The World, Kingsbarns and Kingfisher in the Champions Stakes.

After lowering Australia's colours in the Irish Champion Stakes, Kevin Ryan is going to be forced to bypass an attempt at the Champions Stakes double with The Grey Gatsby and he looks to have run his last race of this season, but will return next year.

"I'm not going to run him on heavy ground. They had 25 millimetres of rain last night and there is more forecast,

"He's done everything we've asked of him this year. He stays in training next season, so we'll look forward to that now," said Ryan.

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