The race is on and I couldn’t be more excited. The Group 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge gives us the mouthwatering clash of South Africa’s heavyweights Legislate VS Futura. The two stars have made it through their preparations and trainer Justin Snaith is happy to let them take each other on.
Snaith, who is in the unique position to train both of them, recently said when talking about this: “I had good horses before. But these are the real deal. They would take on anything in the world – they are THAT good.”
Reigning horse of the year, reigning Durban July champ, Guineas and Daily News winner – he’s done it all in 2014. Heading into the Queen’s Plate back in January, South Africa’s Premier Mile race, he was thought to be virtually unbeatable. Weeks before he stuffed his rivals, including Futura, in the Grade 2 Green Point Stakes, when returning from a deserved break after winning the biggest race of them all, the Durban July.
That’s when the problems started. After Aan unusually dismal performance in the Queen’s Plate it emerged that Legislate suffered from a severe lung infection. That took him out for months to get over it. He also missed his intended return to the track recently, when he injured himself while loading into the stalls.
So, how much ability can Legislate retain? Is he 100% today? According to Justin Snaith, Legislate couldn’t be any better. He’s ready to go, though it’s hard to know whether he’s back to his brilliant best. One the positive side: Legislate looked sensational in his public work, effortless floating over the ground.
What’s more, Legislate usually runs very well as a fresh horse. He always made a successful return – bar the Queens Plate race, where we know he wasn’t right. He’s also unbeaten at Greyville and clearly has the speed and turn of foot for 1.600m as a former Guineas winner.
A hype horse at this time last year. Futura was a massive market mover for the Durban July, South Africa’s most important race. But he wasn’t tested in Grade 1 company yet back then. He looked an emerging star – or a bubble ready to burst – whatever way you wanted to see it. But he proved his class when running out a strong third in the July, with the run of the race clearly against him. He redeemed himself soon after, landing a deserved first success on the highest level.
He hasn’t looked back since then, bar one race: When put into his place by Legislate in the Green Point Stakes. But he subsequently completed the Queen’s Plate & Met double – which is a rare feast! The handicapper reacted, put Futura’s rating up to massive 120 – which means he’s one of the top rated horses in the world now – mind you, 3lb better than Legislate!
Futura had a little break afterwards but was back as strongly as ever when winning a minor race in preparation to the Rising Sun Gold Challenge last month. The general perception is that 1.600m is not an ideal trip for him – 2.000m seems the distance. However his record over 1.600m speaks for itself. 6-4-1-1. Never been out of the money.
BEST OF THE REST
Of course this is not a two-horse-race. Ten more or less well fancied rivals try to land a blow against the two big guns. Ice Machine with Anton Marcus on board is the closest pursuer in the betting. He was an impressive winner of his prep race recently and loves the trip. Not one you want to underestimate but on bare form has has a little to find.
The rest of the field can only hope that the race turns into a muddling affair, which may not quite suit the heavyweights, and as a result they may encounter in-running trouble. There was a shock winner in this very same race twelve month ago, so it’s not quite out of the world. A sprint finish would probably suit Willow Magic most. He ran well in a big Grade 1 sprint recently but stays 1.600m.
I believe a Legislate at his best is the best horse in South Africa – better than Futura too. Before his injury troubles this was the general perception. He was virtually unbeatable, went into the Queen’s Plate a 9/20 chance! Over 1600m he has an advantage against Futura as well. But only if he can find back to his brilliant best.
The race will tell us if the old Legislate is back. Visually he looked superb in his work. He goes well fresh and I give him the benefit of the doubt today. He he’s almost twice as big in the betting as Futura. Convert his odds into a percental chance: 11/4 = 26.6667%.
So if I ask myself: Is Legislate a better chance in this field, if anywhere near his best? Absolutely! I’d nominate Willow Magic as the joker in the race and wouldn’t be surprised if Halve The Deficit can outrun his big price tag – although both shouldn’t be anywhere good enough if things go normal.
Legislate @ 11/4 Sportingbet – 10pts Win