Champion trainer Sean Tarry will come into the Grade 1 Mercury Sprint over 1200m at Greyville on Saturday packing plenty of ammunition after the field was finalised yesterday.
Tarry saddles Trip To Heaven and Bull Valley and should one of them win his stakes earnings for this season will be close to the R35-million mark.
Trip To Heaven is the highest rated sprinter in the country, and must have a strong claim to the unwelcome title of the best horse not to have won a Grade 1 race. His tardy starting habits have had a lot to do with that. Drawn in the middle of the pack, he will be finishing like a rocket if the expected strong early pace materialises.
Sparingly raced four-year-old Bull Valley notched his first Grade 1 win with an impressive display in the Tsogo Sun Sprint at Scottsville in May. On that he is likely to go off favourite for this contest from a plum inside draw, and a second successive top level win would surely make his claim to the Equus Champion Sprinter award difficult to ignore.
Strangely enough, neither had a jockey declared when the final fields were issued.
Potential third string to the Tarry bow is the relatively unheralded Captain’s Causeway, who is first reserve at this stage.
Talktothestars failed to overcome a poor draw when fifth in this race last year and faces the same problem again. He comes into this in fine fettle and has Bernard Fayd’Herbe up once more, but will probably need some luck in the running.
Recent Grade 2 Post Merchants winner Search Party is drawn even wider, and will have to be used early if he is to employ the same barrier to box tactics employed on that occasion. However, given the kind of season Brett Crawford has enjoyed in KZN this winter his chances cannot be discounted.
Joey Ramsden won this last year with Red Ray and Anton Marcus rides the giant gelding Brutal Force here. He came back short in front when tailed off last time, but if sound on the day has to be considered, although on the minus side he is widely drawn, and has not won around a turn.
Three-year-old colts have a poor recent history in this weight-for-age contest, with the last winner being JJ The Jet Plane as long ago as 2008. Justin Snaith-trained Sergeant Hardy probably represents their best hope but is yet to prove he is at his very best over the extended sprint trip.
Another youngster with claims is the Mike Azzie trained Rivarine. You got the feeling there was plenty more to come when he won the Grade 3 Lebello at Turffontein in January, and he warmed up last month with a Pinnacle win.
Final field for the R800,000 Mercury Sprint (Grade 1) over 1200m
1 – 7 TRIP TO HEAVEN (S G Tarry) …………… 60.0 – 120
2 – 2 BULL VALLEY (S G Tarry) …………… 60.0 – 115
3 – 13 TALKTOTHESTARS (F C De Beer) B Fayd’Herbe 60.0 – 113
4 – 12 BRUTAL FORCE (J Ramsden) A Marcus 60.0 – 112
5 – 14 SEARCH PARTY (B Crawford) C Orffer 60.0 – 112
6 – 4 LONDON CALL (M Dixon) K de Melo 60.0 – 111
7 – 15 CHAMPAGNE HAZE (G M Alexander) L Hewitson 60.0 – 110
8 – 6 NEW PREDATOR (J J van Vuuren) G Lerena 60.0 – 110
9 – 11 KANGAROO JACK (G M Alexander) C Zackey 60.0 – 109
10 – 8 VICTORIOUS JAY (V H Marshall) M Byleveld 60.0 – 109
11 – 9 GULF STORM (B Crawford) …………… 60.0 – 106
12 – 3 SERGEANT HARDY (S J Snaith) R Fourie 59.5 – 109
13 – 10 ATTENBOROUGH (J Ramsden) S Randolph 59.5 – 107
14 – 5 RIVARINE (M G Azzie) A Delpech 59.5 – 105
15 – 1 CAPTAIN’S CAUSEWAY (S G Tarry) Reserve 1 60.0 – 103
Same Trainer: (1,2,15) (4,13) (5,11) (7,9)