Exceptional number 7
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.