South Africa

Jockeys predict a race like no other in this year’s Queen’s Plate

2019-01-03 17:25
L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (Supplied)
L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (Supplied)

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 Snaith’s stable. 

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 in 2010. 

“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 meaningful? 

“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.”

Read more on:    horseracing


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