David Thiselton: Champion trainer Sean Tarry says imperious miler Legal Eagle will be nominated for the Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge, but is “unlikely” to run, and thus the clash everybody wants to see, Legal Eagle vs Snowdance and Tap O’ Noth, only has an outside chance of materialising.
Tarry said: “Legal Eagle’s programme works best when giving Durban a miss, in my opinion.”
Tarry was so disappointed by Legal Eagle’s luckless run in the Sun Met, he has not been able to bring himself to watch the replays.
However, he said the six-year-old Greys Inn gelding had travelled up to Johannesburg well and, as he had done in the last two years, would go fresh into the Grade 1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes on April 7. He will be attempting to win that weight-for-age mile for the third year in succession. He won the Grade 1 L’Ormarin’s Queen’s Plate for the third year in a row early last month. It was a narrow win, unlike his easy wins in previous years.
However, Tarry said, “It was a tactical race and we would have been silly to chase the leader. We fetched the leader in the Green Point and we fetched him in the Queen’s Plate and were supposed to the fetch him in the Met. He had come on from his Queen’s Plate run and I couldn’t have had him any better for the Met. It was a perfect prep. He was sound, was eating up and had done everything we had asked of him. But it all went wrong in the race and he wasn’t given a fair chance.”
Legal Eagle was caught wide after going handy from a tough draw, so Anton Marcus had little option but to send him forward and then, when the leader wilted early in the straight, he was forced to go for home early.
Legal Eagle is unbeaten in eight starts over 1600m. However, Snowdance has been ultra-impressive in winning two Grade 1 1600m contests this season and Tap O’ Noth won the Grade 1 Cape Guineas with a bit in hand. A clash between the trio would decide the Equus Miler award.
However, Tap O’ Noth will not necessarily go for the Gold Challenge, as the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 is just a week earlier and both trainer Vaughan Marshall and stable jockey MJ Byleveld believe the Captain Al colt will get 2000m.
Marshall believes he will stay 2000m “on his head”. He said the colt’s unplaced Cape Derby run was a “mystery” as nothing had been found wrong with him afterwards. He added, “It had nothing to do with him not staying, he was never travelling and was gone 400m after the start.”
Tap O’ Noth’s programme for the SA Champions Season has not yet been decided upon. If he does run in the Daily News 2000, one of his rivals will likely be the Tarry-trained Big Bear. This big colt won the R2.5-million Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup over 1400m in impressive style. However, Tarry named the Daily News 2000 as a likely target, not surprisingly, considering he is by Await The Dawn.
Big Bear’s Investec Dingaans seventh place was a disappointment, but Tarry pointed out he had found trouble and been “cleaned up” at one stage. He will come out fresh for the Triple Crown series.
Tarry’s two top speedsters, Bull Valley and Trip To Heaven, will also be heading for the SA Champions Season.
The former won both the Grade 1 Tsogo Sun Sprint and Grade 1 weight-for-age Mercury Sprint last season and will likely go the same route, although he now has a 115 merit rating, six points higher than in the Tsogo Sun last year.
Trip To Heaven has finished second in the last two renewals of the Gold Challenge and has been luckless in all three of his Mercury Sprint efforts, finishing unplaced every time. He is due a change of luck in the latter race over a course and distance (Greyville 1200m) that should suit him due to his exceptional turn of foot.
He has always avoided the Tsogo Sun, but, off a current merit rating dropped to 114, it might be feasible this year. Time is running out for this six-year-old to win an elusive Grade 1.
Tarry’s Matador Man loves Greyville and will be defending his KZN Breeders’ Million Mile title and running again in the Grade 1 Champions Cup, where he ran on strongly for third last year. The Gold Challenge is an outside possibility too.
His stablemate Africa Rising will give him something to think about in the Million Mile, having shown his well-being last week by downing the like of Mustaaqeem when storming home in a 1200m event at the Vaal. However, Tarry believes Africa Rising’s best trip is probably 1400m, as he proved when winning the Byerley Turk last year.
Tarry mentioned French Navy and Sansui Summer Cup winner Liege as two of his likely Vodacom Durban July nominations, but said it was too early to name others.
Of his Triple Crown prospects, he said, “It looks to be a strong crop and we don’t have any of the dominant ones, but we will see what comes out of the Autumn Season.” Big Bear is one of his best contenders. Tarry said he had a number of SA Derby hopefuls too.
Tarry has been national champion trainer for the last three seasons and set an earnings record last season of R36,109,550, which will probably stand for a long time.
However, as usual, he is not thinking about the championship. He said, “Justin (Snaith) had a phenomenal Cape season and it has put him in a strong position. I will just manage every horse’s programme and what will be will be.”
Tarry believes his yard has turned the corner in what has overall been a disappointing season by their high standards. He is some R6.7 million behind Snaith, so has a mountain to climb. – Gold Circle