Three-times National Champion trainer Sean Tarry talked about his 2000th winner achieved with Flash Burn at Turffontein on Sunday and revealed his superstar Legal Eagle would be heading for the Champions Season and might well line up in the Vodacom Durban July.
Tarry’s career started in stunning fashion at Turffontein on 11 May 1997 when his battling one time winner Supreme Magic won over 1400m under Francois Herholdt and returned odds of R199 on the Tote. It was his first meeting as a licensed trainer. Nine days later at Newmarket he won his first feature when Sorevof won the Listed John Breval Handicap over 1200m at Newmarket under Greg Cheyne at odds of 7/1.
Tarry recalled, “In those early days you thought anything could win! If it was sound and eating well it could win! You didn’t realise how many things could go wrong. To just judge a horse on well being and how well it is working is not enough. There are underlying factors and you also need a real understanding of form and ratings. An astute form studier probably has a better chance of predicting a result.”
Fortunately, Tarry has always been a form studier and had soon learnt to relate form with well-being.
The merit rating system was introduced in 1999 and as one who took the time to learn its ins and outs he became an expert in placing horses.
Tarry once said coming from a non-racing background had been an advantage as this had allowed him to be dynamic and never stuck in his ways.
He did have a well documented lucky break early in his career. The successful businessman Chris van Niekerk had decided on an afternoon off to go and visit a training yard or two as he had wanted to get more serious about racing and needed a new trainer. His first two phonecalls went unanswered. He then phoned Tarry and the rest is history. However, Van Niekerk would not still be with Tarry without results and those results have been achieved through Tarry’s professionalism in every aspect of the game and his meticulous attention to detail.
Tarry said, “Attention to detail is really important. There are a lot of things to measure. There are also a lot of things that can’t be measured, well they can be but you can’t go to that expense on every horse, so there are still a lot of things to trip you up.”
It is a high pressure job but Tarry has always been known for his cool, calm and collected demeanour.
He said, “Your expectations have to be realistic otherwise is can cause stress. Public expectations are not the same as yours and when everybody else thinks you can win it is not always the way you are thinking. If you have six or seven well prepared horses for the day running in the right races you would be a fool to think you are going to have six or seven winners. I don’t pay attention to websites. If you take abuse thrown at you as a noteworthy injustice it creates a lot of negative energy which can drag you down so I don’t allow myself to get involved and stay away from it.”
The big wins create the opposite kind of energy.
He said, “You feel elated because it is so hard to win those big races. So much can go wrong and when realising you have got it right it is very gratifying.”
He paid tribute to his big team and said, “Most of them are low profile and it says a lot for them, they keep their minds on the job.”
He found his future goals difficult to quantify but offered, “Winning more Grade 1s, consistency and keeping earnings up.”
Tarry’s winners were all in South Africa with the exception of his top class sprinting filly National Colour’s single victory in Dubai.
His first classic win was with Golden Apple in the 1999 Grade 2 Gosforth Park Fillies Guineas and it turned out to be one of the most impactful victories of his career. Golden Apple became the dam of the Jet Master colt Pomodoro, who gave Tarry the first of two victories in the country’s premier race, the Vodacom Durban July. Tarry has also been one of the biggest supporters of Pomodoro at stud and it has paid immediate dividends as his first crop colt Cirillo is the highest earning thoroughbred in the country this season, having already amassed R3,85 million courtesy of victories in both the R2,5 million CTS Ready To Run Stakes and the R5 million CTS 1200.
Tarry’s first of 50 Grade 1 victories was with the 50/1 shot Alastor in the 2005 J&B Met.
He concluded with the news of a change to Legal Eagle’s routine programming. In discussion with owners Braam van Huysteen, Hedley McGrath and William Henderson it has been decided to send the seven-year-old gelding down to Durban for the Champion Season. Legal Eagle has only ever raced once in Durban, finishing an unlucky fifth in the July as a three-year-old when starting favourite in 2015. His obvious Champion Season target this year is the Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge.
Tarry said the July could well be another race he would run in although due to his high merit rating it will likely depend on who else is taking part. The son of Grey’s Inn will be going for his fourth successive win in the Grade 1 weight for age HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes over 1600m at Turffontein on March 30.