South African Breeders’ Cup hopeful Legal Eagle favored in Sun Met

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January 27th, 2017

If you’re looking to get your Pegasus World Cup Day started early, tune in to South Africa Saturday morning for one of the highlights of the international racing calendar.

Kenilworth’s 1 1/4-mile showpiece, formerly known as the J&B Met (G1), has a new sponsor this year, and Saturday’s renewal is now branded as the “Sun Met.” If the name will take some getting used to, the leading players are well known.

Reigning South African Horse of the Year Legal Eagle and high-class filly Bela-Bela are both coming off victories in Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” races over the course. Legal Eagle successfully defended his title in the Queen’s Plate (G1) in tremendous style, handily beating Captain America and earning a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). Bela-Bela got up in the nick of time in the Paddock S. (G1) and thereby secured a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). While Legal Eagle’s connections are interested in trying to pave a way to Del Mar, Bela-Bela is reportedly less likely to attempt the trip.

Legal Eagle was runner-up in last year’s J&B Met to the outstanding mare Smart Call, who was preparing for a Breeders’ Cup tilt before meeting with a setback in Newmarket. He’s widely favored to go one better this time.

Marinaresco, a rallying fourth from a poor post in the Queen’s Plate, is much better drawn this time. The added ground may also help the winner of the Champions Cup (G1) and near-misser in the Durban July (G1). The Conglomerate, who earned his signature win in the Durban July, is a live longshot capable on his day. The son of Australian stars Lonhro and Republic Lass will be ridden by a famous visitor, Frankie Dettori. Upwardly mobile Whisky Baron, second to Marinaresco in last term’s Winter Classic (G3), has reeled off four straight to earn a crack at the top level. Three-year-old Gold Standard, a fine second in the Cape Guineas (G1), opts to take on his elders – with the help of a weight break that gets him in at a feathery 115 pounds.

The Sun Met, scheduled for 10:10 a.m. (ET), is preceded by a trio of Group 1s.

But the lucrative, non-black-type CTS Mile is also worth watching at 7:25 a.m. (ET), since it serves up a clash between Cape Guineas hero William Longsword and the top two from the Cape Fillies’ Guineas (G1), Just Sensual and Safe Harbour (who was since just a half-length second to Bela-Bela in the Paddock).

The Cape Flying Championship (G1) is the first of the majors with an 8 a.m. (ET) post. Class-climbing Rivarine is especially appealing on pedigree, as the son of Var and 2010 J&B Met queen River Jetez (herself a full sister to J&B Met three-peater Pocket Power). The youngster will try to topple the establishment including Carry on Alice, who’s placed in the past two editions; the venerable Red Ray; razor-sharp Trip to Heaven; and last year’s exacta, Gulf Storm and Brutal Force, both with questions to answer now.

Next up is the Majorca (G1) for fillies and mares, and Lady of the House, the blueblood daughter of Dynasty and champion Overarching, has a stealthy look off her fifth in the Cape Fillies’ Guineas. Several rivals were last seen chasing Bela-Bela in the Paddock, e.g., Silver Mountain (who’s marooned in post 20!), Nightingale, Star Express, Goodtime Gal, Sail, and Final Judgement. On collateral form through the last two, who were also part of the heap with her in the Guineas, Lady of the House fits with the older distaffers here, and she adds blinkers.

The Cape Derby (G1), set to go off one race prior to the Met at 9:15 a.m. (ET), pits progressive Politician (G3) hero Horizon against the Cape Guineas form represented by third-placer Table Bay, Elevated, and Edict of Nantes (Dettori's mount). Horizon stands to improve on the stretch-out to about 10 furlongs, being by Dynasty and out of a full sister to Silvano. So does Politican runner-up Newlands, a son of High Chaparral who appeared to benefit from blinkers last time, and could take another step forward.