Exactly 33 years ago there was a song on everyone’s lips – Phil Collins’ hit “Against All Odds – Take A Look at Me Now.”
That perfectly sums up our champion trainer, Sean Gerard Tarry.
The 48-year-old started with a modest string of 16 horses and it wasn’t until Alastor’s win in the 2005 Met that people started asking “who is this guy?”
The roll-of-honour of Sean’s big race wins since that date is nothing short of remarkable. Top horses who come to mind are National Colour, Pomodoro, Heavy Metal, Gold Onyx, French Navy, White Line Fever, Mythical Flight, Aslan, Buy And Sell, Happy Archer, Succesful Bidder, Hangman, Willow Magic and ill-fated Wendywood.
Sean’s seven winners at Turffontein on Saturday kept that number in focus for SA racing fans. It’s the exact number Jeff Lloyd booted home at a Sunshine Coast meeting in Australia at the end of November.
As Consequentially won Race 11 on Saturday, the roar and “high-fives” in Chris van Niekerk’s box would have drowned the most ardent Lions fan.
It crowned an unforgettable day for the Randjesfontein trainer and his chief patron. Chris already has two July triumphs notched on his belt and now he was able to celebrate seeing his colours carried to victory in the first five races on the 12-event card.
Amazingly, what really excited the charismatic Joburg businessman was one of his horses which didn’t win, Safe Harbour. “What a great run (in the SA Fillies Classic) – she’s proved her talent and that her last run was all wrong.”
As Sean went off to saddle his two runners in the last, I got chatting to his brother, Mark, who is one of the top pedigree analysts in the country.
The Tarrys don’t come from a racing family and – in an interview a few years ago – Sean said he had seen Mark studying his pedigrees and this “planted the seed” for him to get involved in the sport.
Mark gives his pedigree suggestions to his brother at sales, but has always maintained that Sean will only bid if he likes the horse physically.
A regular attendee at Keeneland Sales, Mark revealed that he was there in 2014 and picked out two horses from the catalogue. “One of them was Arrogate – I was chuffed because he’s now the best horse in the world.”
The horses that Mark identified as good buys in Sean’s earlier days include Gold Onyx and Happy Archer and he’s sweet on the stud future of Dubawi’s son, Willow Magic.
While Mark clapped home every one of Sean’s winners, it was Exquisite Touch’s victory in the Man O’ War Stakes which really made his day.
“I loved her pedigree (by Var out of an Elliodor mare) and she didn’t cost a lot. She’s now a four-time winner from seven starts.”
Chris went to R350,000 to acquire the filly from Waterford Stud and she didn’t just win on Saturday – she blitzed her opposition. She won in 61.53 sec, bettering the previous record of 61.65 sec held by Ruby Clipper.
We witnessed something on Saturday which has to be a rarity in racing – a “Lap-of-Honour” in a Grade 1 race.
In the Horse Chestnut Stakes Legal Eagle never changed gears as he sauntered home to the 10th win of his career and his sixth Grade 1 success.
I agree with the post on one website which stated that “every champ needs a credible challenger” and we must hope there will be a stronger turnout for the R4- million President’s Champions Challenge on 6 May.
Chatting to Markus Jooste’s racing manager, Derek Brugman, later, he was understandably lamenting that the five year-old’s proposed sojourn to America had to be shelved. “We could only fill four berths in a 15-berth plane – it was simply not on from a financial point of view.”
Both Mike de Kock and his son, Mathew, are in Australia for this week’s Inglis Yearling Sale and they’ll be disappointed that a full-sister to Heavenly Blue is a late withdrawal.
It’s always pleasing to see a small stable strike on a big day so I was delighted that talented horseman, Jurgen van Heerden, captured the Caradoc Gold Cup with Ilitshe.
Andrew Fortune and Piere Strydom have won on the Aussie import this year, and on this occasion Ryan Munger was as ice-cool as Callan Murray in the Classic as he brought his mount with a smooth run from the rear of the field.
Jurgen will surely now be eyeing the Gold Bowl and – having won over 2850m – I don’t foresee him having a problem with the 3200m of the Durban Gold Cup.
I began this column on a musical note so will end it on one as well.
Sean Tarry can now hum a new tune – Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”
Would you like to place a bet on the horses? Click here to get started in 3 easy steps.