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Free Eagle holds on in a photo to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes

17 Jun 2015

Pat Smullen gave Free Eagle a canny ride to take the feature on Wednesday of Royal Ascot, the Prince of Wales's Stakes.

Prince of Wales's Stakes

The Grey Gatsby (near side) and Free Eagle dive for the line in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes

The Dermot Weld-trained Free Eagle, a one-time favourite for the Derby as a three-year-old, held on to deny a fast-finishing The Grey Gatsby in a photo to win a high-quality renewal of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Free Eagle, sent off the 5/2 favourite, was clear on Timeform Ratings coming into the race after his lightly-raced three-year-old campaign which saw him finish third in last year’s Champion Stakes at Ascot on just his fifth start.

Jockey Pat Smullen gave the returning star an intelligent ride, realising there was little early pace he brought Free Eagle to sit just off leader Gailo Chop. When the race developed two furlongs from home Smullen was still travelling comfortably on the favourite, and began to stretch clear inside the final furlong.

This was Free Eagle’s first run of the season and understandably he began to tire in the final 50 yards. The Grey Gatsby, who had been trapped in a pocket until the closing stages of the race, looked an unlucky loser under Jamie Spencer who would probably have got up close home given a clearer run.

Nonetheless, this was an impressive performance from Free Eagle on his seasonal reappearance after a disrupted preparation on just his fifth start.

Jockey Pat Smullen hailed the training performance from Weld to get his stable star ready for such a race without a prep run, and when asked about future plans for the horse he revealed how he thinks Free Eagle will improve for the step up to a mile-and-a-half, saying: “I’d love to take him to the Arc”.

Free Eagle is a general 12/1 shot for the Longchamp feature in October and his prep for the race could well come in the Irish Champion Stakes in September, which was also mentioned by Smullen.

The result of the Prince of Wales’s was a satisfactory one for Timeform Ratings, with Top Rated Free Eagle beating second top The Grey Gatsby into second. The steady pace and bunched finish mean that Free Eagle may not have bettered his previous Timeform Rating of 129p on this occasion, but given this was his first run of the season against high-class opposition there is surely more to come and he remains a most exciting prospect.