SA Horse Of The Year Legal Eagle showed once again that he has no peers over a mile when achieving the rare feat of back-to-back L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate victories with a sensational run at Kenilworth on Saturday.
The champion 5yo had been given a fright by the year younger Marinaresco in the Gr2 Green Point Stakes five weeks ago.
But the anticipated rematch, or boat race as it is popularly dubbed, failed to materialise on Saturday, as the smashing Avontuur Stud-bred gelding made the prestige mile all his own and owned the beautiful day.
In a fine feat of training , SA champion conditioner Sean Tarry had been proven spot-on with his assessment that he still ‘had something to work on’ after the apparently ‘running on empty’ Green Point success.
That despite conceding at the same instance that trainers ‘sometimes bluff themselves’!
24 years after his opening L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate victory on Empress Club, Anton Marcus made it six personal wins in the prestigious weight-for-age mile.
He also celebrated a superb Gr1 double and rode four winners on the blue and white afternoon, enjoying something of an armchair ride on the champion, who hit the front full of running at the 400m, to win going away.
In his typically self-effacing sporting fashion, Marcus said that he had every respect for his ten opponents as the race was a Gr1, and made special mention of the horse expected to be his arch-rival, Marinaresco, who he suggested was ‘a very good horse’.
They are likely to meet again in the Met.
“There is elation but there is expectation too. I had no rear-view mirror and didn’t know how far they were behind me,” he said with a broad smile.
After losing a shoe and being attended to by the farrier at the start, Midnite Zone (also in the Mayfair Speculators silks) cut out a decent pace, with Legal Eagle always within earshot.
With his mount full of running, Marcus could wait no longer at the 400m, and he gave the Greys Inn gelding his head to roars of applause.
Only looking ahead, Marcus steered Legal Eagle to victory as he stormed home for the royal double. He won at odds of 13-20, recording an unpressured winning margin of 2,25 lengths in a time of 97,73 secs.
Gr1 winner Captain America was also always thereabouts and ran a much better race off a less frenetic pace than he faced in the Green Point Stakes.
He held on for second, 0,75 lengths ahead of his stablemate Sail South, who was given an interesting change of tactics today by Richard Fourie. The son of Sail From Seattle stormed home late to run a cracker.
The 2-1 second favourite Marinaresco had only Sail South behind him turning for home and, while he quickened, he hesitated momentarily and had no chance with the top three and finished what was a disappointing fourth, 3,30 lengths behind the Eagle.
Piere Strydom enjoyed a rare quiet afternoon with July winner The Conglomerate running a fair Sun Met prep from his wide draw to finish 5,60 lengths back in seventh.
Gr1 winner and stablemate to the winner, French Navy, failed to fire and finished just 0,40 lengths behind The Conglomerate. He may be a different horse over the 2000m in the Met.
The 2016 SA Triple Crown champion Abashiri also ran a disappointing race, finishing stone last and 12,40 lengths off the winner.
The beleaguered son of Go Deputy has a mountain to climb before the Sun Met in under three weeks – that’s if he runs.
HRH Princess Eugenie of York and British High Commissioner Dame Judith Mcgregor added a glamorous touch to the post-race presentation after the winner was led in by a host of connections, that included Michael Jooste and elated breeder Pippa Mickleburgh, who celebrated a triumphant festival with a Gr2 success for Avontuur on Friday.
The top-class consistent Legal Eagle has won 9 races (5 Gr1’s) from his 15 starts with 4 places for stakes of R7 022 875.
A son of Vodacom Durban July winner Greys Inn, he is out of the six-time winning National Emblem mare Young Sensation, who was also trained by Sean Tarry.
While there is some way to go yet, the champion miler ( cleverly labelled ‘quite underrated’ by the astute and outspoken Joey Ramsden) must have claims to another Horse Of The Year title!
He was bought by Sean Tarry on behalf of top owner Markus Jooste for R425 000 at the 2013 BSA National Yearling Sale.
Now for the Sun Met – and bring on the cynics and the naysayers again.
This great horse has no stamina limitations and will be a major player on 28 January at the same venue.