Free Eagle may take chance in Prix de L’Arc

Weld confirms next start will be French highlight or at Ascot in Champion Stakes

Free Eagle only returned to action at the weekend but the spectacular style of his Group Three Leopardstown rout is prompting Dermot Weld to consider a tilt at Europe's ultimate middle-distance prize, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

The Curragh trainer has issued a “nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out” report on the exciting colt but confirmed Free Eagle’s next start will either be in the Arc in just nineteen days’ time or next month’s Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.

The latter option could involve a clash with Australia and The Grey Gatsby – the principals from last Saturday’s dramatic Irish Champion Stakes – over the 10-furlong trip Free Eagle won the Enterprise Stakes by a wide margin in his first start for a year after recovering from a stress fracture of his tibia.

The Arc would mean a step up to a mile-and-half but jockey Pat Smullen indicated he has no stamina worries for the Moyglare-owned son of High Chaparral and Longchamp's all-aged spectacular looks a wide-open heat this year after recent defeats for the likes of Sea The Moon and the title-holder Treve at the weekend.


“I will have to speak to the owners and see how he progresses but nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out,” said Weld. “What I can say is the plan is he will run again this year and it will be either the Arc or the Champion Stakes. No definite decision either way has been made yet.”

Free Eagle’s victory was Weld’s

Champions Weekend highlight but Tarfasha also scored for him in Sunday's Blandford Stakes and Longchamp's Prix de l'Opera on Arc day is a Group One option for her, along with the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare which Weld describes as a "distinct possibility".

The trainer feels his decision to not risk his exciting new stayer Forgotten Rules in Sunday’s Irish St Leger due to the quick ground conditions was vindicated and the unbeaten gelding is likely to run next in Sunday week’s Listed Loughbrown Stakes at the Curragh before a tilt at Ascot’s Long Distance Cup.

That is a race Weld won in 2012 with Rite Of Passage and the same race could also see another unlikely comeback by the injury-plagued 10-year-old. The 2010 Ascot Gold Cup winner hasn’t been seen in action since landing the Long Distance Cup two years ago when he made light of a 510 day absence.

“My problem with Rite Of Passage is trying to train him day-to-day on very dry ground. But at the moment he is very much in the mix to run again in that Ascot race. He will go straight there. He has to have soft ground these days but he’s an amazing horse,” said Weld.

“The Loughbrown is a new race I’m keen to support and if the ground is suitable Forgotten Rules will run there. It should set him up for Ascot because I’m keen to get more experience into him. Missing the Leger could have been a blessing in disguise. I think it was the right call because he would have been thrown into the deep end. Ideally, we want yielding ground for him. Anything with firm in the description is not suitable,” he added.

An already hugely successful 2014 campaign for Rosewell House lacks only a Group One victory to top things off but Mustajeeb could join Free Eagle, Tarfasha & Co in trying to put that right on his next start.

The Jersey Stakes winner finished runner up in the Boomerang Mile at Leopardstown on Saturday, a performance that encouraged Weld. “For a first start in three months it was an excellent performance. He didn’t quite get the run of the race. He is in the Prix la Foret and also the Queen Elizabeth II at a mile.”

In other Arc news, Treve remains on course to defend her crown at Longchamp despite finishing only fourth in Sunday’s Prix Vermeille.

“She is fine. She hasn’t lost any weight,” said trainer Criquette Head-Maarek. “I spoke to Sheikh Joann and . . . there is no change in the plan.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column