Name: Sean Gerard Tarry.
Date and city of birth: 6 August 1968 (48); Johannesburg.
Family: Married to Karen and we have three children, Daniel (9), Sienna (7) and Jason (3).
How did you become involved in horseracing? After two years’ national service I tried my hand at a few businesses, including the food industry. I took a gap year and started working with my brother-in-law, the late Damon Rahme, who was working with Bertie Hayden at the time before taking out his own trainers’ license. The bug bit and from then on it was inevitable I was going to train racehorses. I started working for June Casey, moved to Karen and Greg Anthony and then took out my own license. You couldn’t compare me to other assistants because I never earned a salary. I was there to learn.
When were you licensed? May 1997. I started with 16 horses at Randjesfontein. My brother Mark owned most of them. Chris van Niekerk, who is currently my biggest patron, came into stable in 1998.
Did you have a mentor? I had a good grounding but in about 2004 I became friendly with Mike de Kock and have taken a lot from the way he does things. I also have a very good understanding of form so when the merit rating system was introduced in 2002 it didn’t take me long to understand it and learn how to best place my horses. Those have been the key ingredients to my success.
How many horses do you have in your string? In excess of 160. I’ve got a good team backing me up so I can break it down into manageable chunks. My Durban satellite yard is run by Deshone Steyn. At Randjesfontein my assistants are Andries Nzongo, who has been with me since day one, Shilock Mtwesi, Thabiso Nako and Monique Mansour. It’s a strong team with everybody managing their own responsibilities.
How many winners have you had? 1,713 in South Africa. One overseas – National Colour who won a 1000m sprint at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai in 2007 and finished second to Borderlescot in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes in 2008. Mythical Flight and (July winner) Heavy Metal are two other horses I’ve taken overseas but both were unsuccessful in their international campaigns. I’ve had runners in Dubai, England, France, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Tell us about your first runner. A winner, Supreme Magic who paid R199 a TAB Win in a Novice Plate at Turffontein on 11 May 1997. My first feature winner was Sorevof in the John Breval Handicap and first graded-race win was with Golden Apple (Pomodoro’s dam) in the 1999 Gosforth Park Fillies Guineas. My first Grade 1 winner was Alastor in the 2005 Met. I’ve been blessed to have many special horses, but perhaps my best win was National Colour as a three-year-old in the 2006 Computaform Sprint. Another must be Pomodoro winning me my first Vodacom Durban July. And, of course, Mythical Flight set a 1000m grass record in the Computaform Sprint in May 2007.
Best horse you’ve trained? I’d say that has to be Legal Eagle, purely on his achievements. He’s won six Grade 1 races and only been beaten at that level three times. National Colour and Mythical Flight were both very special. The most talented horse I’ve trained who never achieved what he could have was Fort Baluga - he was a colt and used to get restless in the pens. The T-junction came when he needed to be gelded. We didn’t geld him because of his stallion potential and he got coltish, too heavy, and never achieved what he should have.
Who is the best horse currently in your stable? It has to be Legal Eagle and that’s saying a lot because he’s competing with the likes of Carry On Alice, Trip To Heaven and French Navy. Legal Eagle is not that difficult to train, even though I do have to be quite particular with him. I’ve had time to work him out. We’ve got the recipe. He nearly didn’t run in the HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes on Classic Day because we weren’t happy with him early in the week. We’ve had quite a few sick horses at Randjesfontein and I wasn’t sure he was right. But he won a very special race and, thankfully, pulled up well.
Notable achievements. Racing’s been good to me and it’s hard to pinpoint just one – as you know I never get too high on the highs. I’m very grateful for the hand I’ve been dealt. I’ve won two championships; 40 Grade 1 races. The seven wins (including Legal Eagle’s success in the Grade 1 Horse Chestnut Stakes and three other features) on Classic Day in early April was superseded by Champions Day last year when I had three Grade 1 winners – Legal Eagle won the Premiers Champions Challenge, Carry On Alice won the Computaform Sprint and Cloth Of Cloud beat the colts in the SA Nursery. Trophy Wife won the Gerald Rosenberg Stakes on the same day. I’ve also had 36 Grade 2 winners, including the Gosforth Park Fillies Guineas with Golden Apple, 42 Grade 3s and 44 Listed winners.
Are you superstitious? Hardly but I do hate it when people make predictions about one of my horses winning. I’d rather wait and let the horse do the talking.
What do you do in your spare time? The little I have I like to spend with my family – that’s normally on Sundays, perhaps an afternoon a week when there’s nothing on, and Friday evenings. I also enjoy playing golf. I’m a hacker, but it’s fun.
What music do you like to listen to? I’m not hell-bent on certain music and I’ll tolerate almost anything except heavy metal (no pun intended) or country music.
Favourite food? I have no favourite dish, but I’m a fussy eater and the food must be well prepared and tasty.
Favourite night out? I suppose in a good restaurant with friends.
Do you follow sport? I enjoy watching golf and rugby and our national teams when they’re doing well. I enjoy a good game of any sport and admire the sportsmen and women who compete at that level. I know how tough it is to succeed.
Do you read? No, just the Computaform.
Do you watch TV? A bit of sport when I’m not with my kids – we seem to always end up watching the kids’ programmes.
Best movie you have seen? I used to enjoy watching movies before life became so hectic. Don’t ask me my favourite movie or movie star: as you have probably worked out, I’m not a “favourites” person – I’ve got too many to worry about in horseracing to play that game.
What car do you drive? A BMW X5.
What are your objectives for the future? Things have gone really well in the past few years. I’d like to keep up the momentum if possible. It would be nice to race overseas again, but we’d need the export protocols to change for me to take that chance. It takes a long time for our horses to get anywhere near a racecourse overseas.