Free Eagle: connections want quick ground at Leopardstown
PICTURE: Caroline Norris (racingpost.com/photos)
THE Gleneagles camp is not alone in hoping for good to firm ground for the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes a fortnight on Saturday, with Dermot Weld on Tuesday expressing similar sentiments for Free Eagle, Ireland’s other leading contender.
Free Eagle was put away for an autumn campaign after landing the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on his only start of the season so far in June, when he beat last year’s Irish Champion Stakes winner The Grey Gatsby by a short head.
Connections bypassed the Juddmonte International at York with Leopardstown’s showpiece Group 1 in mind, for which the four-year-old is generally 5-1 second favourite behind 2-1 chance Golden Horn – the Juddmonte International runner-up and another who would prefer a sound surface – with Gleneagles at 3-1.
Weld, who has yet to win the Irish Champion, said: “Everything with Free Eagle is going to plan. He’s working away towards running in the Irish Champion Stakes and it’s a case of so far, so good with him. What we want for him is good to firm ground.”
Free Eagle has raced only five times and has won twice at Leopardstown, including the Group 3 Enterprise Stakes by seven lengths on Irish Champion Stakes day a year ago.
The Longines Irish Champions Weekend, which boasts prize-money of more than €4 million, was officially launched on Tuesday night at a reception in the Radisson Blu St Helen’s Hotel in Dublin.
Guests of honour were Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for agriculture, food and the marine, and minister of defence, and Juan-Carlos Capelli, vice-president and head of international marketing at Longines.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “Last year’s event surpassed all of our expectations. We had two great days of racing with an equal spread of winners between British and Irish trainers. As Longines Irish Champions Weekend approaches, we await the return of some of those champions, along with many of the most exciting horses we’ve seen this season.”
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