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A ding-dong battle saw Deo Juvente, Legal Eagle and Nother Russia pass the post with just a short head separating them in the R4-million Premier’s Champions Challenge (Grade 1) over 2000m on Champions Day at Turffontein on Saturday.

Many experts would not have looked further than Horse Of The Year Legal Eagle (8-10 favourite), who had won this race last year and his second HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes in a row last month, but the champ did not look his normal self, hanging in the final 200m and not putting in his usual finish. Honours still went to his owners, Markus and Ingrid Jooste’s Mayfair Speculators.

Victory gave Geoff Woodruff-trained Deo Juvente a long overdue first Grade 1 win.

It was young jockey Callan Murray’s third Grade 1 win of the afternoon after he won the SA Nursery on Mustaaqeem and the Computaform Sprint on Rafeef. He said: “I’m speechless. This was unbelievable. This horse was also superb coming into the race. Well done to Mr Woodruff, Mr and Mrs Jooste and Mr Brugman.”

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