The Martial beats the Marshall! A pall of stunned silence descended over Kenilworth on Saturday as the rank outsider Martial Eagle stormed home to win the R2,5 million Gr1 J&B Met in front of a festive crowd in blustery conditions.
Ignored by the experts, the son of Silvano started at 80-1 and appropriately rose to the ‘Made To Fly’ theme of the momentous day to give leading owner Sabine Plattner a second winner in the prestigious race.
Jockey Aldo Domeyer, bubbling with his characteristic confidence, rode a cool race from the 15 draw on the 7yo gelding.
Plattner Racing won the Met in 2003 with Angus, and there was also a touch of irony at play as Brett Crawford, who trained Angus, sent out the beaten favourite Jackson, who ran a disappointing fifth today.
It just showed again too that it is a funny old game that we probably try and turn into science too often. Consider that Martial Eagle was really only regarded as a good handicapper, before a cracking forward fourth placed effort in our premier mile, the Gr1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate three weeks previously.
This led to him being supplemented into the Met, for what trainer Yogas Govender bravely said was the ‘best R18 000 I have spent of Mrs Plattner’s money!’
The race rolled out perfectly for Domeyer, who would not entertain any thoughts from the school that suggested that Martial Eagle would not stay at his first attempt at 2000m.
Domeyer was on record as saying that he couldn’t worry about whether his mount would stay or not: “ I will ride my race with confidence, and be positive.”
Well it worked.
Piere Strydom was obliged to take Pomodoro out to lead from the 1400m marker as the Cape Crawl reared its ugly head, after Tribal Dance and Martial Eagle had jumped enthusiastically.
Strydom had the July winner relaxed in front and led Hill Fifty Four and Martial Eagle as they went into the long bend. At this stage Beach Beauty was relaxed in midfield, with King Of Pain at the rear.
Turning for home, Pomodoro turned on the jets as Hill Fifty Four and Martial Eagle went with Tarry’s big horse as Jackson started his run and Beach Beauty also commenced her dash through traffic.
At the 300m marker, Pomodoro’s exertions started taking their toll as Martial Eagle and Hill Fifty Four came together for a duel to the wire. At the 200m marker, it was obvious that nothing was getting near them with only Beach Beauty putting in an effort.
In an exciting and heart-stopping finish, the bookmakers were the only ones cheering as Martial Eagle forged ahead to win by 0,3 lengths in a time of 122,91secs.
Hill Fifty Four was conclusively beaten, but was not disgraced, while the terrific daughter of Dynasty, Beach Beauty, ran third 1,50 lengths behind the second placed runner.
After his early flight to speed things up, Pomodoro became one-paced and faded to fourth, to finish best of the fancied runners.
The favourite Jackson never got going and ran fifth to collect the R62 500 cheque, just ahead of Tribal Dance.
Glen Kotzen’s tough old warrior Fabiani,ran seventh as he bowed out of racing after a long and distinguished career.
Joey Ramsden’s Selangor Cup winner King Of Pain, the only 3yo in the field, ran 0,3 lengths behind Fabiani.
The rest were comprehensively walloped, with Slumdogmillionaire finishing a tame eleventh – and poor old Run For It ran stone last. Run For It was drawn just outside of Martial Eagle.
Trainer Yogas Govender, who was celebrating a 100% strike rate having scored with his very first Met runner, was understandably emotional afterwards.
“I am still amazed. This was my first Met runner and the whole team believed in this horse. I must say a very big thank you to Mrs Plattner. When I joined Plattner Racing, I asked her for three years to produce a Gr1 winner. I suppose this is the ultimate and I never expected it to be in the Met!” he smiled.
Winning jockey Aldo Domeyer was thrilled as he also celebrated his first Gr1 winner.
Sporting an unconventional boy band gold-streaked hairdo, which would hopefully have shown some of the teeny bopper once a year racegoers that racing is not only populated by fuddy duddy middle- aged grey men, an elated Domeyer eloquently thanked the support team.
The legendary Andrew Fortune’s son said that the draw was the big concern, and he was not sure what his tactics would be right up to just prior to the jump.
“ I spoke to Mr Delpech. He wisely suggested I commit early and stick with my decision. I managed to pop him into a nice position. When we were in the home straight and I saw I had Piere Strydom and Pomodoro stone cold, I knew we were in with a big shout. I saved a little bit to take MJ on and for the rest it was pure adrenaline and emotion that carried me over the line!” he said.
Domeyer went on to thank his family and God, as well as owner Sabine Plattner and trainer Yogas Govender for the opportunities given to him.
Bred by Wilgerbosdrift, Martial Eagle has had 31 runs for 8 wins and 13 places.
He quadrupled his rather modest income prior to the Met, and his gross career earnings soared to a healthy R2 078 180 after this victory.
That makes his purchase price of R300 000 at the National Yearling Sale of his year look really good value.
He is a son of Silvano, out of the five-time winning Jallad mare, Seeking The Wind.
One can’t exactly label this a win for the underdog. Plattner, Wilgerbosdrift and Silvano are big names in the game. But at least the Bookies will stop whinging for a few weeks.
J&B Met (SAf-G1) (2/2)
Kenilworth, South Africa, February 2, R2.5 million, 2000m, turf, good,
MARTIAL EAGLE (SAF), 58.0, b g 7, Silvano (GER) – Seeking The Wind (SAF) by
Jallad (USA). Owner S Plattner; breeder Wilgerbosdrift; trainer Y Govender;
jockey A Domeyer (1.562.500)
Hill Fifty Four (SAF), 58.0, b g 4, Captain Al (SAF) – Sports Dance (SAF) by
Beach Beauty (SAF), 57.5, b m 5, Dynasty (SAF) – Sun Coast (SAF) by Capture
Margins: nk, 1½, nk