Bull Valley and Tarry take Mercury Sprint

Bull Valley and Sean Tarry – they got the ear and tail in bull fighting terms - as the gelded son of Toreador threw his hat into the ring for Equus Sprinter of the Year honours with a thoroughly workmanlike victory in the R800,000, Grade 1 Mercury Sprint (1200m) at Greyville on Saturday.

Tarry, having the season of his life and adding another feature race triumph to his tally, saw his charge get the better of Search Party - unable to turn the tables of the Grade 1 Tsogo Sun Sprint - and New Predator.

The Mercury Sprint is the final Grade 1 sprint event of the season and the lightly raced Bull Valley, who does not have the best of legs and has his problems, has been patiently handled by Tarry to produce the goods and this win adds ammunition to Bull Valley’s Equus chances, ironically to the possible detriment of stable companion and star mare Carry On Alice.

“He’s had his setbacks but the Scottsville race (Tsogo Sun Sprint) was his long-term plan. I’m glad he’s come through it. But he had an abscess and I was in two minds whether to pull the plug (for this race) but he’s a brave horse,” said Tarry.

Stable companion and mount of first-call rider S’Manga Khumalo, Trip Heaven, blew his chances at the start and his first Grade 1 victory remains elusive. Trip To Heaven’s starting antics are well documented but he was particularly slow away this time around and was never in the hunt.

Search Party, second to Bull Valley in the Tsogo Sun Sprint, did well to overcome a wide draw but again proved second best and good enough to edged out New predator to snatch second.

Tarry-trained Trophy Wife, who came out of one of the best three-year-old crops of fillies seen in recent years, finally got her act together to run out a fine winner of the Listed Queen Palm Stakes. This was her first win of the season that comes to an end in a fortnight’s time, but it was long overdue and well deserved.

“She’s had her problems and is not the easiest,” said assistant trainer Dijon Steyn but she was well handled by apprentice Lyle Hewitson who has one of the finest pair of hands in the game.

Stable companion Witchcraft set the pace but with a furlong to run it was line-across the track. However, Hewitson coaxed the best out of his mount and went on through to hold a fast-finishing Forbidden Duel, the rank outsider of the six-horse field.

Duncan Howells and Dennis Drier are locked in a neck-and-neck duel for the KZN Trainer’s Championship that is decided by number of winners in the province rather than stakes won.

It is proving a see-saw battle. Reigning champion Drier was first out of the blocks, winning the first two on the card, but Howells pulled one back with Accidental Tourist in the fourth. Drier was back again with Rocky Valley in the in the sixth leaving Howells with a three-winner lead but Howells was not done as Russian Speed held on narrowly from a fast-finishing to score in the ninth.

With four meetings to run. It will pay punters to follow these two stables.

Sean Tarry, picture Nikosi Hlophe