South Africa's dual Horse of the Year, Legal Eagle, under the new ownership of Braam van Huyssteen, will aim for an unprecedented third victory in Saturday's G1 L'Ormarins Queen's Plate. The race headlines the L'Ormarins Queen's Plate Racing Festival, which takes place over two days at Kenilworth Racecourse.
Post time for the Queen's Plate is at 4.40 p.m. Cape Town time (10.40 a.m. EST and 7.40 a.m. PST) on Saturday, Jan. 6. Further value can be found on the 10-race card, with the G1 Cartier Paddock Stakes slotted for 4 p.m. (10 a.m. EST and 7 a.m. PST).
If Legal Eagle goes on to win Africa's most prestigious weight-for-age mile, he would become the second horse in history, after Pocket Power in 2010, to achieve a hat-trick. The race also presents an opportunity for Legal Eagle to earn another shot at competing against some of the world's best turf racers in the Breeders' Cup World Championships.
Based on recent comments, Legal Eagle trainer Sean Tarry is optimistic about his horse's chances: “Everything has gone smoothly,” he said. “He has had a perfect prep and you don't have to debate about the draw or the jockey.
As with other #winandyourein races, the horse that tops the Queen's Plate receives an automatic berth in the G1 Breeders' Cup Mile in November. The winner of the Cartier Paddock Stakes gets a spot in the G1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Despite making the grade twice in a row, Legal Eagle has not yet lined up in a Breeders' Cup race due to travel considerations. At this time, it's still unclear whether he will represent South Africa when the Breeders' Cup World Championships return to Churchill Downs later this year.
Not only has the son of Durban July winner Greys Inn drawn well – he'll be out from barrier 2 – but on current form he's the horse to beat in Saturday's field. Legal Eagle has enjoyed a great career, posting 11 wins from 20 starts, including multiple Group 1 triumphs. He excited fans when he registered a double in the G2 Green Point Stakes and the Sun Met and looks to start odds-on in Saturday's race at 2/5.
Now that Legal Eagle's Green Point Stakes rival, Edict of Nantes, is out of the Queen's Plate to pursue a career in Hong Kong, Captain America and Marinaresco are set for more prominent roles. A place-getter in the 2017 editions of the Queen's Plate and Green Point Stakes, Captain America's sublime form should afford another credible attempt at dethroning Legal Eagle.
Marinaresco is also no stranger to suffering defeat at the hands of Legal Eagle's regular jockey, Anton Marcus, finishing a half-length behind the duo in 2016's Green Point Stakes and fourth in last season's Queen's Plate.
Captain America (6/1) and Marinaresco (9/1) will be breaking from post 9 and 4, respectively.
Sail South (13/1, barrier 8) is another legitimate scoring threat. The Brett Crawford-trained bay gelding followed his third place in last season's Queen's Plate with two more losses against Captain America and Marinaresco before finally bringing himself into the limelight, winning the G1 Champions Cup.
Other notables on the hunt for a Queen's Plate conquest are the Winter Series winner African Night Sky (15/2, barrier 5), Argentinian colt Hat Puntano (9/1, barrier 10), who was last seen sweeping the Peermont Emperors Palace Charity Mile at Turffontein in November, and Sun Met fourth Gold Standard (5/1, barrier 11).
“I know we've got draw 11 to contend with but the horse is moving really well and his jockey is riding out of his skin,” said Glen Kotzen, trainer of Gold Standard. “It looks like there will be a pace on and my horse will be doing his best work at the finish.”
Before Legal Eagle, Captain America and Marinaresco meet in the Queen's Plate, fans can enjoy the strongest race for fillies and mares in South Africa – the Cartier Paddock Stakes. This 8-furlong feature, which is the only other G1 race on the day's agenda, was formerly known as Maine Chance Farms Paddock Stakes and last won by Bela-Bela in Jan 2017.
North American racing fans can live-stream the Queen's Plate and the Paddock Stakes on Saturday morning at ADWs such as TVG, TwinSpires, Xpressbet, NYRA Bets, WatchandWager, HPIbet, AmWager, and BetAmerica. Punters can also pick up free past performances and watch live at Sky Racing World.
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