Cape Town - The final
field for the 2019 running of the R1.5 million L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate - to take place at Kenilworth Racecourse on
Saturday, January 5 - has been confirmed with a field of 10 top
class runners, including the top four finishers in the sensational Grade 2
Green Point Stakes.
Champion miler Legal Eagle is back to defend his
crown, but won’t find it easy as, standing between him and a fourth
silver salver, are 2018 Durban July winner, Do It Again, and Majorca
Stakes winner, Snowdance, from current national champion trainer, Justin
Eric Sands sends out the wonderful Rainbow Bridge,
unbeaten until his narrow defeat in the Green Point Stakes, along with stable
companion and likely pacemaker, Amazing Strike. Brett Crawford, meanwhile, saddles the tough and consistent Undercover
Agent, another from that tight Green Point Stakes finish.
Mike de Kock saddles 2018 Cape Guineas sensation,
Soqrat as well as the extraordinary Buffalo Bill Cody, while Joey Ramsden
fields the glamorous pitch-black Argentinian beauty, Hat Puntano. And finally, Johannesburg lady trainer
Candice Dawson attempts her first Queen’s Plate win with Infamous Fox.
The one they’re all chasing of course is seven-year-old
Dual Horse of the Year, Legal Eagle. Unbeaten over a mile in his entire career,
Legal Eagle bids to equal Pocket Power’s incredible record of four straight
wins. The man in the hot seat on Saturday is four-time South African champion
jockey, Anton Marcus, who has partnered Legal Eagle to all his Queen’s Plate
victories to date.
As the reigning title-holder - and with Pocket Power’s
record of four straight wins in his sights - is there any pressure of
expectation on horse and jockey?
“There’s no pressure. Legal Eagle always goes out and
does his best and one can’t ask for more than that. It’s always a very competitive race. We are the defending champions, so the race
is ours to lose, but make no mistake, the rest of the guys will be trying hard,
as they should be,” says Marcus.
With seven silver salvers in his own trophy cabinet,
there are few who know how to get the job done better than Marcus. Are there any trade secrets to being the L’Ormarins
Queen’s Plate’s winning-most rider?
“Yes,” he smiles.
“You need luck!”
The last person to achieve the feat was Bernard
Fayd’herbe, who partnered Pocket Power to his fourth L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate win
“Pocket Power was a special
horse. The more Queen’s Plates I rode him in, the more confident I was he was
going to win - he was just getting better and better. Ten days before that last win, I was really
bullish. He was going to try and break
all the records and set the target Legal Eagle is trying to equal at the
moment. We were really confident - and
then he won it! It was one of my most
special moments in racing,” says Bernard Fayd’herbe.
What makes winning the L’Ormarins Queens Plate so
“It’s a special race and there’s
a lot of prestige and class about it. It’s run at Weight For Age, so the best horse wins. It’s become one of the best race days in
South Africa and every jockey wants to try and win it. To make it more special, the Queen’s Plate late
has such an incredible heritage,” adds Bernard.
This year, Fayd’herbe rides Rainbow Bridge, who was
unbeaten until that epic Green Point Stakes finish in December. How is he feeling ahead of the big race?
“I’m going to try and win my sixth Queen’s
Plate but it’s the strongest, most competitive and open L’Ormarins Queen’s
Plate I’ve seen. Any one of the horses
could win it. Obviously we all have to
beat Legal Eagle. He’s unbeaten over a
mile and it’s not by fluke that he’s always the one with his head down on the
line in those short head finishes. Legal
Eagle is a tough one to get past, but he’s going to have to be at his best -
we’re going to give him a run for his money!,” says Fayd’herbe.
“It’s going to be an awesome race. I can’t wait.”