Hall of Fame
Whenever a horse makes it way to the parade ring heads turn. It’s a natural effect of the magnificence of the animal. People admire the equine’s athletic appearance
But when the current Horse of the Year makes his appearance on the racecourse there’s further reason to pay close attention. This is the ultimate athlete. Legal Eagle is a horse who gives very little away when being walked around the parade ring but who manages to light up the turf time and time again.
Much like a heavyweight prizefighter goes about his business in the build-up, it’s all calm until the moment the gates crash open and the field is sent for home. And there haven’t been too many who have been able to lower the colours of the reigning champion.
To date his career has one solitary blip, an unplaced effort when on debut back in in 2014. Call it a learning experience. But since then Legal Eagle has always made sure that the commentator keeps tabs on him in the closing stages of a race.
A winner on his first appearance in 2015, Legal Eagle would follow-up with a runner-up finish before reeling off a hattrick, first in the listed Derby Trial before an impressive victory in the Grade One SA Derby proper and then a win in the Jubilee Handicap (Group Three) in the winter.
It led to a tilt at the Vodacom Durban July under a featherweight 54kg where Legal Eagle managed to finish fifth, two-and-a-half lengths behind which marked an end to his three-year-old campaign.
There was a return to action in December later that year before the assault on the Western Cape feature season began which saw Legal Eagle claim the mantle as the country’s best miler when claiming a first L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (Gr 1) crown.
It led to a shot at the Met of that year but he had to settle for a runner-up berth behind Smart Call. But there were no comers when returning to the Highveld with Legal Eagle swooping in the HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes (Gr 1) and then another impressive victory when beating his stablemate in the Premier’s Champions Challenge.
These efforts when some way to cementing his status as Horse of the Year at last year’s Equus Awards.
And so far this season, Legal Eagle has added yet another L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (Gr 1) title as well as the Grade Two Green Point Stakes at the start of his Cape campaign.
It was a case of deja vu in the Met this year when finding one better before a successful defence of his HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes (Gr 1) on SA Classic Day at the beginning of April.
The Hall of Fame is usually reserved for the champions of the past, but the efforts of Legal Eagle have already ensured his legacy as one of the greatest horses South Africa has ever seen.