Pat Smullen confident Free Eagle can soar to new heights

Pat Smullen could not be happier with Free Eagle ahead of today’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes despite it being his first outing of the year.

Pat Smullen confident Free Eagle can soar to new heights

Dermot Weld’s four-year-old has been ante-post favourite since betting opened following his third in the Champion Stakes at Ascot last October on what was just his fourth run.

While Smullen admits it is not ideal that he makes his reappearance in such a hot race, everything has gone well with his preparation since he bypassed the Tattersalls Gold Cup with a minor ailment.

“Free Eagle is in good form, we’re very happy with him. We’d have loved to have got a run into him before a race like this, but it wasn’t to be,” said Smullen.

“He’s in tremendous form and everybody knows what I think of him. Let’s hope we have a good run round and whatever happens, I think we’ll have a lovely season with him.”

Weld said: “It’s his first run in an awful long time, but we expect him to run well.”

Kevin Ryan’s The Grey Gatsby lowered the colours of last year’s dual Derby winner Australia in the Irish Champion Stakes and ran with credit when second in Dubai, before finishing fourth in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.

“It was a good run in Dubai, coming back in trip on a sharp track and Solow is a very good horse. He’d had a prep run as well,” Ryan said.

“If we hadn’t gone there and the ground had come up very soft in Ireland, there was a chance his first run would have been at Royal Ascot, so we had nothing to lose by going out there.

“He loves a stronger pace and probably wants a bit more cover than he got at the Curragh, but it was a messy sort of race and I didn’t hide the fact he would improve an awful lot for the run. He was quite heavy.

“The favourite’s a very good horse, but we just concentrate on our own horse and turn up on the day in the best shape we can get him. Hopefully he runs his race.”

Jamie Spencer rides the grey with Ryan Moore claimed by Sir Michael Stoute for Cannock Chase.

Australians have added colour to the meeting for a long time now but usually in the sprint division rather than over 10 furlongs.

However, David Hayes was keen to bring his Grade One winner Criterion.

“Sir Owen Glenn (owner) said if we had the right horse we should go to Royal Ascot,” he said.

“After watching Australian horses do so well in the sprints, I’ve always thought that if I had a horse that was good enough, it would be great to take the English on at their own game with middle-distance horses.

“The Prince of Wales’s Stakes is going to be a very hard task, with a tough international field. But all I can say is Criterion is very healthy and I have been very happy with his work.

“The horse has had a look around Ascot. I was pleased with him and young Chad Schofield who rode him said he handled the undulations very well.”

Spielberg brings some top-class form over from Japan having finished third in the Japan Cup.

Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto, said: “I am so excited. Just being here in England is very exciting.

“The Prince of Wales’s Stakes is going to be a very, very competitive field, with Criterion and the best European horses lining up.

“Spielberg hasn’t shown us limitations. We don’t know how good he is yet. He could be much better than we expected.

“Christophe Soumillon approached us about the ride after the Japan Cup and we are happy as he is a great jockey.”

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