South Africa’s current champion Legal Eagle successfully defended his crown in the G1 L'Ormarins Queen's Plate at Kenilworth on Saturday to earn an invitation to the 2017 Breeders Cup Mile in America.
His dominant 2.25 lengths victory over Captain America earned him an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Mile, to be held for the first timer at Del Mar on November 4.
As a part of the benefits of the Breeders Cup International Challenge Series, Legal Eagle will have his pre-entry and entry fees covered and will also receive a $US40,000 travel allowance for his connections if they decide to travel to the US.
Legal Eagle, the 2016 South African Horse of the Year, was confidently ridden by Anton Marcus to beat 10 rivals in South Africa’s premier mile race for the second time.
Starting an odds on favorite, he sat in third position behind pacesetters Midnite Zone and Captain America until Marcus came off the rail to swoop past the leaders.
Captain America held on for second with Sail South third.
Trained by Sean Tarry, Legal Eagle has won nine of 14 career starts including four G1 races. Last year he won the Queen’s Plate, HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes and the Premier's Champions Challenge to secuire Horse of the Year honours.
Legal Eagle is now a short-priced favourite to win the G1 Sun Met at Kenilworth on January 28 where he wil clash again with Captain America.
"This gets us excited for things to come. I wasn't convinced about his last gallop, which I thought was a bit ordinary, although Anton was happy with it,” Tarry said after the win.
The second favourite Marinaresco was near last in the run and made up five lengths in the final furlong to finish fourth.
Anton Marcus landed a G1 double on Saturday as he also captured the Maine Chance Farm Paddock Stakes for fillies and mares aboard Bela-Bela.
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 at Del Mar.
Trained by Justin Snaith and owned by Varsfontein Stud, Bela-Bela won the G1 Woolavington 2000 and G2 Fillies Guineas at Greyville in 2016 and finished sixth in the G1 Durban July.
Snaith said Bela-Bela will also be a candidate for the G1 Met on January 28.
"It was a good run - there is more to come,” Snaith said.
G1 - The Bet365 Celebration Steeple Chase (class 1)
G3 - The Bet365 Gold Cup Steeple Chase (handicap) (class 1)
G1 - Aes Champion 4yo Hdle
Grade B - Setanta Sport H'cap Hdle
Grade B - Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe H'cap Chase