Champion trainer Sean Tarry began his discussion about his runners for tomorrow’s Classic Day meeting with a word of caution.
“People may have noticed there have been a lot of scratchings before race meetings of late and that is due to some bugs going around at the moment. It has not yet been identified and everybody is going into the meeting cautiously and a little guarded.
“You run horses who seem fit but they could be incubating something and could misfire.”
Tarry has a number of favourites and there clearly will be high expectations from the public.
However, even a vigilant Tarry had to admit Legal Eagle is “the right horse” in the R1-million HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes over 1600m.
“Everything is on track,” said Tarry.
“The Champions Challenge is his main mission and there is still a bit to work with but I’m not saying he is not fit enough to win this race. This race is similar to last year’s Horse Chestnut and the Green Point Stakes at Kenilworth. He needed that run in the Cape but he still won.
“But it’s horses like him who makes you the most nervous.”
The five-year-old son of Greys Inn has run 16 times for nine wins and five places. He has raced seven times at the course for five wins and the two occasions he was beaten were in sprints, one of them on debut. He is unbeaten in five runs over 1600m and is at least 6kg better off with his opposition based on merit ratings. Anton Marcus is back aboard.
On handicapping Rafeef would be given no chance but he is a gutsy sort and getting better with each run. He has won five of eight starts and finished second on two other occasions, one of them being his only start over 1600m.
He won the Grade 2 Hawaii Stakes over 1400m last time, keeping New Predator, now 1kg better off, at bay by a neck. “His preparation has gone very well and I feel he’s made more improvement. Of course, it’ll be hard to beat Legal Eagle, but he’ll give it his best,” said assistant Mathew de Kock.
Trainer Johan Janse van Vuuren says New Predator is showing “some of his best-ever work at the moment” but on form has little hope of beating Legal Eagle.