It was a case of lightning striking twice as Legal Eagle produced a dominant display to walk away with the mantle of L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate champion in the 156th running of South Africa’s oldest horse race.
By the end of the R1.5-million affair at Kenilworth Racecourse on Saturday the reigning Horse of the Year had put two and a quarter lengths between himself and the opposition.
In the build-up there had been talk about a new winner emerging from the 11-strong field but the defending champion dispelled all doubt and the race was put to bed a long way out as jockey Anton Marcus guided his mount home with relative ease.
“The good horses make us look good. He’s five for five over the mile and there are certainly no stamina doubts. He’s very unassuming but he’s such an easy horse to ride and he makes my job simple,” Marcus said of his mount.
The win demonstrated Legal Eagle’s dominance over the mile, or 1600m, trip and the Sean Tarry inmate is now likely to be aimed for a tilt at the Sun Met celebrated with GH Mumm at the same venue later this month.
“There’s jubilation but there’s also expectation. It’s a relief,” Marcus said of the responsibility of guiding the pre-race favourite home in the Group One affair.
The jockey was also full of praise for the sponsors L’Ormarins for the effort they put into making this edition, which included a historic first for South African horseracing with a festival held over two days, a success.
“To the sponsors as well they’ve made it a special day,” said Marcus.
Princess Eugenie of York was on hand for the presentation of the trophy, a silver plate to the winning connections, a tradition that dates back to 1861 when Queen Victoria awarded donated a silver plate as a prize for the winner of the inaugural event.
Marcus had every reason to be beaming by the end of the meeting as he guided home a Grade One double after also taking success in the main supporting feature, the Main Chance Farms Paddock Stakes.
The good-looking grey filly Bela-Bela produced a brilliant effort on the standside rail, leaving those positioned on the fence with plenty for their social media accounts, to get up in a thrilling finish that also included Safe Harbour and Silver Mountain.
Off the track there were a number of winners as well with L’Ormarins giving away a trip to Glorious Goodwood in the UK later on in the year to the Best Dressed Lady as well as prizes for the Best Hat and Best Dressed Man.