NICCI GARNER: THE Vodacom Durban July is the race every trainer dreams of winning from the moment he is handed his badge. So trainer Sean Tarry’s muted enthusiasm after Pomodoro won him the most coveted prize in Africa – a prize that he predicted he would win before Jackson stormed on the scene – is somewhat surprising.
Perhaps some of his chief patron Chris van Niekerk’s reserve has rubbed off, but Tarry – normally one of racing’s most ebullient and outspoken personalities – says he is just relieved.
“I always had plenty of confidence in the horse. I was certain beforehand that he wouldn’t be the same Pomodoro who had turned up for the Daily News 2000 (he finished fifth) because that was a prep run and we subsequently sorted out an underlying shoulder injury.
“The No 20 draw was what worried me, but once Piere Strydom got him over – in the end the draw was probably in our favour, rather than against us – I knew he was the horse to beat.
“Pomodoro was the best of my three horses in the Durban July – and at 28-1 you were a fool not to have an interest.
“On pedigree he’s got no limits. He showed me that from Day 1 in that 1200m sprint at Scottsville in August last year when he finished second. Since then he has pretty much done what was expected of him.’’
Pomodoro – named after the opera “Il Pomo D’oro’’, which means “The Golden Apple’’, and NOT the Italian “tomato’’ – has now won six of his 11 career starts for Van Niekerk after being bought back because he did not reach his reserve at auction. The popular owner had bred him on the advice of Tarry’s brother Mark and he was raised at Ambiance Stud from where Tarry’s 2005 Met winner Alastor also hailed. The R1.8-million first prize took Pomodoro’s earnings over the R3 million mark.
He is likely to be rested now and brought back for the Highveld Autumn Feature Race Season next year.
Said Tarry: “He pulled up very well compared to his last three runs, but he’s had a hard campaign – especially because that shoulder injury took a while to sort out – and he’s been going almost a year non-stop. So I’ll take it easy with him now and see. Jet Master’s progeny only get to their very best late, so the best is yet to come with him.
“He’s rated 110 now and is not my idea of a handicap horse, so we’ll programme him for weight-for-age and conditions races. Races in the autumn fall into place, with the Horse Chestnut Stakes (WFA) and the President’s Champions Challenge, and then maybe he’ll come back to Durban.
“The Sansui Summer Cup is out because it’s a handicap and the J&B Met is not in the forefront of my planning because I don’t really want to go looking for Jackson at level weights in his own back yard. Obviously, if it starts looking ripe for the picking, then we’ll have to consider it.’’
Gold Onyx and Whiteline Fever, who was hampered by the winner at a crucial stage as he was making his run, finished seventh and eighth respectively, less than three lengths behind Pomodoro, and Tarry was happy with both, saying: “They couldn’t do more.’’
Tarry is eyeing the Champions Cup for Gold Onyx and then perhaps the Met, while Whiteline Fever might join another of the stable’s well-regarded three-year-olds, E-Jet, in the Summer Cup.
Tarry’s Happy Archer finished third behind Princess Victoria and Ebony Flyer in the Garden Province Stakes and he was thrilled with her effort, saying: “She loves Greyville and I’m thinking of running her in the Gold Bracelet (on Gold Cup-Champions Cup Day) where she’s drawn well.’’
Kolkata, who ran third in the Gold Vase, will be “cherryripe’’ for the Gold Cup at the end of the month.
“It was a great prep for the Gold Cup. It came too soon after his second run after a rest and I felt he was still a bit behind fitness-wise to win a 3000m race,’’ said Tarry. “He’ll come into the Gold Cup cherryripe, off a good draw and with a good weight. Piere will retain the ride.’’