Trainer Geoff Woodruff best put this year’s R4-million Premier’s Champions Challenge into perspective when he said: “We’re probably all chasing after prize money without expecting to win.”
With Legal Eagle heading up the nine runners for this Grade 1 race over 2000m on the Turffontein Standside track tomorrow, under the race conditions it will be mighty hard for any of his opponents to earn the R2.4-million winner’s cheque.
Sean Tarry’s charge has everything in his favour. He is at least 3kg better handicapped than any other runner in the race, has a record of six wins from eight starts at Turff ontein and is unbeaten over the course and distance. He is also the defending champion, having beaten stablemate French Navy by 2.10 lengths last year.
His preparation coming into this race has been identical to last year with just one warm-up race, and it was exactly that – a warm-up. He cantered the 1600m in the Grade 1 Horse Chestnut Stakes and won easing up by 2.40 lengths, again beating French Navy into second.
Anton Marcus, who has ridden the fiveyear- old son of Greys Inn to victory in all but two of his 10 wins, was all smiles after that victory. “He is probably the best weight-for-age horse in the country right now,” he commented.
With Tarry adding that his charge is doing well, that is about all the confidence you need. He is 4-10 and looks a banker.
Horseracing is always unpredictable, though. French Navy has had to play second fiddle to his more illustrious stable companion on a number of occasions but his run in the Horse Chestnut Stakes was most promising as he produced the fastest 400m to finish. He was fi _ ed with a tongue tie and, as Tarry pointed out, “it was simple to see the improvement was there”.
He will also be suited by the extra 400m and has had no setbacks in training. Tarry added: “He can get closer this time. Why not?” S’manga Khumalo takes the ride once again.
There is one runner Legal Eagle has not yet faced and that is Nother Russia. Things have worked out quite well for the Mike de Kock-trained filly as the weights were declared before she won the Empress Club Stakes so has not received a Grade 1 penalty. That has made her reasonably well handicapped.
“If you do the maths French Navy is 3kg out with Legal Eagle and she is next best, another 1kg out.
On that basis she must have a competitive chance of finishing in the first three,” said De Kock. It was a filly who upset Legal Eagle in the 2016 Met at Kenilworth and who knows? Maybe this daughter of Mother Russia can do the same.
Brazuca won over 2000m in his last start but his time was some 2.5sec slower than Legal Eagle’s victory of last year.
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