For the first time this iconic race, which first took place in 1883, will be run on strict weight-for-age terms.As a result, the highest rated horse in the country Legal Eagle has to be a worthy favourite. This will be his third attempt at winning The Met but in the last two years he has found one horse to beat him, and in both cases it was the best handicapped runner who did it.
This time he is the best handicapped runner but there are still two questions that need to be answered.Firstly, how will jockey Anton Marcus handle the wide draw, and more importantly, is Sean Tarry’s charge as talented over 2000m as he is over 1600m?
As far as his No 15 barrier position is concerned, Tarry believes it is all up to Marcus and Legal Eagle. “A good jockey and a good horse – they will find their way,” he said.Whether he will see out the distance is another issue. The concern is that Marcus might have to use him up to overcome the draw and he could be run out of it once again. If that does happen, the horse most likely to do so is Marinaresco.
There was a lot of talk about him last year as the danger to Legal Eagle but after a lacklustre effort in the G1 Queen’s Plate (1600m) on 7 January 2017, many pundits wrote off his chances.Marinaresco finished a well-beaten fifth in The Met but proved that run all wrong five months later when he came from last to win the G1 Durban July (2200m) at Greyville, even though he carried top weight of 132lb.
Trainer Candice Bass-Robinson has raced him sparingly since then, and he was seen most recently in the G1 Queen’s Plate on 6 January, 2018.Still more than nine lengths back with 400m to run, the son of Silvano took off in the last 200m to finish fifth, beaten just 0.9 lengths by Legal Eagle.
There is no doubt he will see out the distance and can only come on from that run. He is also badly drawn at Gate 13 but will likely be dropped out after the start and be allowed to run on.One of the most honest performers in South African racing is Captain America.
He has run 32 times for nine wins and 16 places but he has not won beyond 1600m and has yet to finish in front of Legal Eagle in eight previous meetings.Nevertheless, Captain America has finished third in his last two starts, and from his draw in gate three, this long-striding seven-year-old looks the best place-bet at the meeting.
Trainer Mike de Kock will be looking for his fourth win in this race and he saddles three runners this year – Heavenly Blue, Nother Russia and Cascapedia.Heavenly Blue won the G1 SA Classic over 1800m at Turffontein last year but developed knee chips when contesting the G1 SA Derby (2450m).
He only made his comeback on 7 January. He was beaten 4.4 lengths, but most importantly, he pulled up sound. This beautifully-bred son of Australian sire Snitzel has a lot of class and is a lot better than his rating of 106. He had an excellent gallop at Kenilworth last Saturday and should be competitive from his draw in gate two.Last Winter has only raced five times for four wins and a second and is highly rated by trainer Dean Kannemeyer.
The four-year-old has done little wrong but has yet to meet this class of field and only the race will tell if he is good enough.Aside from the main feature, the most exciting prospect on the day has to be Snowdance in the G1 Majorca Stakes over 1600m.
The manner in which she won the G2 Western Cape Fillies Championship (1400m) and then the G1 Cape Fillies Guineas (1600m) last start makes her look very special.She is the best-weighted runner and is expected to win with authority, although she is sure to go off at very short odds.