Gulfstream Park once again becomes an international horse racing mecca on Saturday, Jan. 27th, when the track hosts the second running of the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational. In the countdown to the richest race on the planet, U.S. fans can enjoy another world-class racing event, as record-breaking Legal Eagle looks to see off Marinaresco in the G1 Sun Met, running at Cape Town's Kenilworth track at 10:15 a.m. EST or 7:15 a.m. PST (5:15 p.m. local time Saturday).
If he succeeds at Kenilworth, Legal Eagle, who recently added his name to the history books with a third consecutive victory in the G1 L'Ormarins Queen's Plate, will have also chalked up a record not equalled in a decade – winning both the Queen's Plate and the Met in the same season. This was last achieved by the legendary Pocket Power back in 2008.
Legal Eagle's status as the country's undisputed champion will be seriously tested this weekend, as the two-time South African Horse of the Year takes another shot at winning the Met after finishing second in the previous two instalments. Run over 1¼ mile and dating back to 1883, the race figures as one of the South African majors still to elude the 7-year-old gelding.
Legal Eagle did give his Sun Met hopes a boost early this month, when he swept his way through the hotly-contested Queen's Plate to triumph over Copper Force and Captain America and claim his hat-trick. After this victory, he goes into the race as favourite (4/1) to uphold his form of an unbeaten eight starts at a mile, even though he has been condemned to an undesirable barrier 15.
Another possible stumbling block is that he is vulnerable over a mile, according to trainer Sean Tarry. But the 49-year-old Tarry is not one to be easily intimidated and remains confident.
“The new weight-for-age conditions of the Met will be right up his alley,” he said.
As well as the distance, another key challenge for Legal Eagle will be Marinaresco, who has also earned fair support from the bookies with odds of 9/2. The two horses' encounters provided a constant thread over the last two seasons, first in the 2016 Green Point Stakes, and resurfacing in subsequent editions of the Queen's Plate and Sun Met. Six-year-old gelding Marinaresco, who won last year's G1 Vodacom Durban July after placing second in 2016, only finished fifth in the Sun Met last January and the Queen's Plate earlier this month, however.
At barrier 13, Marinaresco shares Legal Eagle's start in the outer barriers. But trainer Candice Bass-Robinson is positive it won't kill his chances of finally dethroning his rival.
“I'm not too unhappy about Marinaresco's draw,” she said “He doesn't race up with the pace and likes to be given a chance so it's not the end of the world.”
Potentially upsetting the Marinaresco–Legal Eagle showdown is star trainer Justin Snaith's Australian-bred filly Oh Susanna. This 3-year-old daughter of the legendary Street Cry, who won the 2002 Dubai World Cup, is in a relatively comfortable position with barrier six and boasts odds of 13/2.
“With such a good pedigree, and as she is a young horse who is still raring to go, she has got to be respected,” said Snaith, who will also field four other horses in the Met.
He cautions, though, that Oh Susanna cannot afford to “over-race” Saturday, referring to her 1½-length victory in this month's G1 Cartier Paddock Stakes after over-extending herself in the early stages. That said, Snaith anticipates the pace will be faster in the Met, which will be to Oh Susanna's advantage.
The other horses who will carry Snaith's hopes in the Sun Met are Copper Force, African Night Sky, Krambambuli, and Elusive Silva. Copper Force and African Night Sky were handed relatively kind draws, and have odds of 9/1 and 10/1 respectively. Considering how close the longshot Copper Force came to winning this month's Queen's Plate – less than half a length – this 5-year-old gelding could surprise again Saturday.
Ahead of the Pegasus, US and Canadian fans looking to see if Copper Force or Oh Susanna manage to push both Marinaresco–Legal Eagle out of the spotlight can wager and live-stream the Sun Met at advance depositing wagering (ADW) sites. These include TVG, TwinSpires, Xpressbet, BetAmerica, WatchandWager, NYRA Bets and HPiBet. Sky Racing World's site also provides fans free form guides, betting tips and live-streaming for all South African races.
About David Haslett
A former Managing Director of Sportech Racing, David was appointed President and CEO of Sky Racing World in April 2014. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company, a subsidiary of Australian wagering firm Tabcorp, provides Australian, New Zealand, South African and South American racing content for simulcast horse-race wagering to multiple North America-facing ADW brands and race-tracks.
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