Legal Eagle (SAF) Defends Title in L'Ormarins Queen's Plate in South Africa and Gains Automatic Berth into Breeders' Cup Mile
LEXINGTON, Ky. (January 7, 2017) – Ingrid and Marcus Jooste’s 5-year-old Legal Eagle (SAF), successfully defended his L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (G1) title Saturday at Kenilworth Racecourse in South Africa with a 2 1/4-length victory over Captain America (SAF) and earned an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Mile through the International Breeders’ Cup Challenge.
Now in its 11th season, the Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held this year for the first time at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, November 3-4, near San Diego, Calif.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for Legal Eagle to start in the Mile and will also provide a US$40,000 travel allowance for his connections and for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the Championships’ pre-entry deadline of Oct. 23 to receive the rewards.
Legal Eagle, the 2016 South African Horse of the Year, was confidently ridden throughout by Anton Marcus in the one-mile race over 10 rivals. . The bay son of Grays Inn, sent away as the 8-13 favorite, sat in third position behind pacesetters Midnite Zone (SAF) and Captain America through the first seven furlongs. In the straight, Marcus swung Legal Eagle off the rail to swoop by Captain America and the fading Midnight Zone and increased his margin to the wire. Captain America, 20-1, held on for second, followed by Sail South (SAF), Marinaresco (SAF), Silicone Valley (SAF), Midnite Zone, The Conglomerate (AUS), French Navy (SAF), Fifty Cents (SAF), Bold Rex (SAF) and Abashiri (SAF).
Trained by Sean Tarry, Legal Eagle has won nine of 14 career starts, including a recent win over the course in the about seven-furlong Green Point Stakes (G2) on December 3. The bay son of Greys Inn won three Group 1s in five starts in 2016, including the HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes and the Premier’s Champions Challenge in April. His two defeats came against the champion mare Smart Call (SAF).
“It was an emphatic victory,” stated Tarry on the winner’s stand. “We had a bit of work to do after the Green Point. I thought his last gallop was ordinary and wasn’t convinced, but Anton was very happy with the gallop so that put my mind at ease.”
Marcus scored a Group 1 riding double Saturday, as before the Queen’s Plate he captured the 1 1/8 mile Maine Chance Farm Paddock Stakes (G1) for fillies and mares aboard the 5-year-old Bela-Bela (SAF), who finished strong on the far outside to defeat Safe Harbour by a half-length at the wire. With her victory Bela-Bela became the first horse in 2017 to earn an automatic berth into the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Owned by Varsfontein Stud, Bela-Bela, the 5-6 favorite in the 12-horse field, won the Table Plate Hotel Conditions Stakes at 6 furlongs on turf on December 17 at Kenilworth. It was the first start for this gray 5-year-old daughter of Dynasty (SAF) since finishing sixth in the Vodacom Durban July, run on July 7, against male rivals. Prior to that, she won the Woolavington 2000 (G1) on May 28 at about one mile, and the about seven-furlong Daisy Fillies Guineas (G2), both at Greyville.