David and Goliath battle in Queen’s Plate
Another David and Goliath movie was made in 2016 with Matt Berberi and Michael Foster in the lead roles.
Racing will have its own version in Saturday’s L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate at Kenilworth with 25-year-old rider Grant van Niekerk as David taking on 46-year-old former champion, Anton Marcus, as Goliath.
It is an intriguing scenario for this historic grade 1 race because the choice of who to back may come down to a single fact. Do you rely on the experience of Marcus on Legal Eagle or can Van Niekerk win the duel on Marinaresco?
While champion trainer Sean Tarry is quoted as saying: "It’s not necessarily just a two-horse race," he is probably alone in this assumption. Legal Eagle, 2016’s winner, and Marinaresco, runner-up in the Durban July, finished close together in the recent Green Point Stakes and an action-replay looks the most likely outcome.
If Legal Eagle wins — and he is 9-10 favourite in latest betting — he will join an illustrious cast of back-to-back Queen’s Plate winners which includes Pocket Power, Jet Master, Wolf Power and Sledgehammer.
The great attribute of Tarry’s champion is that he seems equally effective over 1,600m or 2,000m while most pundits feel Marinaresco needs the latter trip to show his best.
Candice Bass-Robinson is understandably displeased at another wide draw for her four-year-old, but there are only 11 runners and it would have been far more serious if there had been a full field of 16.
It is the first really big meeting for Bass-Robinson who took over the reins of the Bass stable at the beginning of the season and she has three runners in the supporting feature, the Maine Chance Farms Paddock Stakes.
Her trio of runners are Silver Mountain, the 3-1 second favourite, Nightingale and Whose That Girl. The first-named, another big ride for Van Niekerk, showed her class in 2016’s Cape Fillies Guineas and can make Bela-Bela pull out all the stops.
While Captain America has enjoyed an excellent career in the care of Brett Crawford, the suspicion is that the bookies have got it right in quoting him at 14-1 and a place cheque looks the most likely outcome.
The race will show whether last season’s Triple Crown victor, Abashiri, is returning to his best although his many fans will probably keep their money in their pockets.
Tarry has warned that it would be wrong to dismiss the chance of his other runner, French Navy, and a big plus is having the vastly experienced Weichong Marwing in the irons.
Both Tarry and Bass-Robinson have chances of pulling off a big race double and Marwing will partner Tarry’s talented filly Safe Harbour in the Paddock Stakes. The Cape Fillies Guineas runner-up has drawn favourably at barrier two.
The Queen’s Plate two-day festival kicks off on Friday with the running of the R400,000 Sceptre Stakes and Tarry’s inmate, Carry On Alice, will be a popular choice to win this grade2 race. Corne Spies’ filly, Scandal, ran well in the Southern Cross Stakes, but it is Real Princess who is likely to throw down the gauntlet to Alice.