Ex­cep­tional num­ber 7

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - DAVID THISELTON

THE dual L’Or­marins Queen’s Plate win­ner and reign­ing Equus Horse Of The Year Legal Ea­gle is seen by many as un­beat­able in the Gr 1 Sun Met, so there is some irony that this year is the 50th an­niver­sary of the great race’s big­gest ever up­set.

Years end­ing in seven have gen­er­ally pro­duced ex­cep­tional Mets and this year’s race has al­ready made his­tory by car­ry­ing a R5 mil­lion stake, the high­est stake for an open race in SA his­tory.

In 1967 the im­mor­tal Sea Cot­tage started at odds of 5-10, likely the short­est odds in Met his­tory, but he was re­port­edly nearly brought down in the run­ning and fin­ished only fourth, beaten 2,5 lengths by the win­ner, the JW Bell-trained colt Ding Dong, to whom he gave 19 pounds.

The win­ner was rid­den by jockey great James Ma­ree, who has done so much for workrid­ers in Gaut­eng in re­cent times.

In 1977 the race pro­vided the first of three suc­ces­sive wins for jockey great Ber­tie Hayden, who won five Mets in all.

He won that year on Ba­hadur, owned by pop­u­lar Dur­ban cou­ple Roy and Gla­dys Meaker.

The fol­low­ing year was the first year of J&B’s 39 year-long spon­sor­ship and Hayden won aboard the great Syd Laird­trained Politi­cian.

Politi­cian and Hayden won again in 1979 in one of the most cel­e­brated Met fin­ishes of all time as the big ch­est­nut was stuck in a pocket un­til about the 200m mark and had been writ­ten off by most of his sup­port­ers. Thirty years ago in 1987 the race had to be staged in April due to the equine flu epi­demic. The con­nec­tions of the Paddy Lunn-trained favourite Model Man took the risk of pay­ing R32,000, a vast amount in those days, to fly the horse down.

He would have to fin­ish in the first three to pay his way. He duly won the race by 0,25 lengths un­der Basil Mar­cus and the con­nec­tions took home the first prize of R175,000.

Model Man is in­ci­den­tally the grandam sire of Legal Ea­gle, who is from the fam­ily of 1968 Met win­ner Wil­liam Penn. In 1997 the great Alec Laird-trained Lon­don News be­came the first since Politi­cian to do the Dur­ban July-Met dou­ble. Two months later he put South African rac­ing on the map by fa­mously win­ning the Gr 1 QE II Cup in Hong Kong.

In 2007 the great Mike Basstrained Pocket Power won the first of his three suc­ces­sive Mets.

He re­mains the only horse to have won the pres­ti­gious race three times.

De Melo re­cov­ers

Jockey Kea­gan de Melo es­caped with soft tis­sue bruis­ing af­ter a nasty fall on Kinshasa on the Greyville poly on Mon­day and ex­pects to be back for to­mor­row’s Greyville night meet­ing.

In the sec­ond race Kinshasa sud­denly stag­gered side­ways to­wards the in­side rail be­fore fall­ing over, throw­ing De Melo on to the poly sur­face.

On course staff feared the worst for the horse and a screen was erected.

How­ever, he was found by the on course vet­eri­nar­ian to have suf­fered a pul­monary haem­or­rhage (bleed­ing), al­beit a mas­sive one.

Kinshasa has duly been sus­pended from rac­ing in ac­cor­dance with the rules re­lat­ing to bleed­ing.

De Melo said he was feel­ing “ten­der” yes­ter­day, but was due to be­gin a phys­io­ther­apy pro­gramme to re­pair the dam­age.

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