There looks to be no stopping the Sean Tarry express for the SA Champion trainer title this season. A glorious Gr1 double in their quartet of feature victories at Turffontein on Saturday demonstrated the yard’s marked superiority in terms of equine firepower this term. And a week of drama and wartalk ended with some dented ego’s and tarnished reputations.
The allure and excitement of the 3yo classic contests lies in the squaring up and the proud connections’ ‘my boy is better than yours’ approach. It makes for interesting racing – and just as we love the winners, it is part of the entertainment package that we have the tail-between-the- legs brigade who leave the stage licking their wounds.
In the build-up to the R2 million Gr1 SA Classic we had the sledging and the gamesmanship. We even had one top contender that burgled his way through the bathroom window of the reserve runner ranks. His trainer will be remembered as the man that unwittingly shook up the way we do declarations in South Africa.
In the end the race was a thriller.
After the withdrawal of Mutamakkin and Greek Legend, fifteen runners lined up with the undefeated Investec Cape Derby winner Ertijaal jumping at 11-10, despite his eventual 14 draw. Guineas winner Harry’s Son, who was installed in the widest gate, went off at 9-2.
Ertijaal showed gate speed and led Deputy Jud and Harry’s Son, with Unparalleled relaxed in fourth. French Navy was cruising in midfield about eight lengths behind the leaders.
They came to the outside rail into the home run and Harry’s Son was quick to grab the lead at the 400m marker as Ertijaal wobbled and Strydom saw an opportunity to go for broke.
The bright orange silks of Deputy Jud pressed Harry’s Son into the 300m marker as longshot Amsterdam ghosted through down the inside, with an upset result in prospect.
The seven in contention fanned out in the desperate push for the winning line as Raymond Danielson’s body language spoke of indecision for a few strides on French Navy as he looked out, then in, and then out again as he eventually beat Unparalleled (who bumped him in the process) for the sought after gap between Amsterdam and Deputy Jud.
In a matter of strides French Navy was in front and he bounced into the lead and ran on strongly at 8-1 to hold the persistent Amsterdam to 0,75 lengths in a time of 111,47 secs.
Deputy Jud, who had lurked in the shadows for much of the home straight, ran a further 1,50 lengths back in third, with original reserve runner Unparalleled hanging on for fourth after looming menacingly.
Gauteng Guineas winner Harry’s Son plodded into fifth 4,50 lengths behind the winner and had nothing to come late. He either didn’t stay or his season caught up with him.
The favourite Ertijaal was in front for a long way but his exertions from a wide draw did his prospects no favours and his 13 lengths in arrears will have the Mike De Kock team going back to the drawing board.
The Chris Van Niekerk owned French Navy has been a model of consistency since shedding his maiden at his second start and registered his first stakes success in glittering Gr1 style here after a few telling placed efforts in recent months.
He has now won 3 races with 4 places from 8 starts and R1 636 125 in stakes.
Bred by Geoff Armitage, French Navy is by Count Dubois out of the five-time winning Elliodor mare, Redoubtable.
He looks very well bought for just R100 000 on the 2013 R2 million CTS Ready To Run Sale held at Durbanville.
His performance also capped a particularly impressive day all round for Cape Thoroughbred Sales with three Gr1’s and two Gr3 winners.
Gr1 SA Classic (SAf-Gr1)
Turffontein, South Africa, March 28, R2 million, 1800m, turf, soft, 1.51.47
1 – FRENCH NAVY (SAF), 58.0, b g 3, Count Dubois (GB) – Redoubtable (SAF) by Elliodor (FR). Owner Mr C J H Van Niekerk; Breeder GJ Armitage; trainer SG Tarry; jockey R Danielson
2 – Amsterdam (SAF), 58.0, b g 3, Windrush (USA) – Kindly Kat (USA) by Machiavellian (USA)
3 – Deputy Jud (SAF), 59.0, ch c 3, Judpot (USA) – Star Deputy (NZ) by Deputy Governor (USA)
Margins: 0.75, 1.50, 0.75