LEGAL EAGLE AND ANTON MARCUS
Jack Milner: While many people are calling the R1.5-million L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate over 1600m at Kenilworth on Saturday a two-horse race between Legal Eagle and Marinaresco, they may have missed out on another rivalry that will continue throughout the day – Anton Marcus against Grant van Niekerk.
The Grade 1 Queen’s Plate, with Marcus on Legal Eagle and Van Niekerk aboard Marinaresco is not the only race in which they are likely to fight it out. Marcus rides 12-10 favourite Bela-Bela in the Maine Chance Farms Paddock Stakes (Grade 1) while Van Niekerk on Silver Mountain has been priced up as their main danger at 7-2.
They also ride the two leading contenders in the Grade 3 Politician Stakes, Horizon (Van Niekerk) and Newlands (Marcus) and are near the top of the boards in Race 10 with Elusive Path (Marcus) and Mutzi (Van Niekerk).
Sadly for Van Niekerk, he could be on the wrong side of rivalry in three of the four although he looks hard to beat on Horizon in the Politician Stakes.
Legal Eagle taking on Marinaresco is the talking point of the meeting as the pair are now regarded as the best middle-distance runners in the country. They are on course to meet again in the Sun Met on 28 January over 2000m but tomorrow the conditions favour Legal Eagle. He is better over 1600m, he can quicken as well as former Springbok centre Danie Gerber and he has the better draw.
Marinaresco got left in his wake in the Green Point Stakes and even though the son of Silvano took off late, he failed to get there by 0.40 lengths. However, he will be fitter this time and if Van Niekerk is able to get his mount going early, we could be in for a humdinger.
Of course, there are other horses in this race and the person who would love to throw a spanner in the works is Piere Strydom. He rides The Conglomerate who is reported to have put up a remarkable grass gallop at Kenilworth last week. Strydom has ridden this fellow twice, once in the Durban July where he beat Marinaresco and then in the Summer Cup where he finished second.
Also, do not write off French Navy who can run a bit on his day.
Bela-Bela looks hard to oppose in the Paddock Stakes but Silver Mountain ran on best of all last time when both contested a Conditions Plate over 1400m and will improve over this distance.