The Robbie Sage-trained Unzen wins the WSB Grand Heritage under Dennis Schwarz (Picture: World Sports Betting)
Unzen was an impressive winner of last season’s BSA Sales Cup by 4,75 lengths and in the first handicap race of his career The Robbie Sage-trained Erupt gelding won the WSB Grand Heritage over 1475m at the Vaal on Saturday.
Unzen was awarded a 108 merit rating for his BSA Sales Cup win last year and was kept to Graded and plate races thereafter.
It is interesting to note that last year’s Allied Steelrode Gr 3 Graham Beck Stakes has produced the Betway Summer Cup winner and two winners on Saturday.
The Nathan Kotzen-trained Pathfork gelding Royal Victory finished a 1,75 length third in the Graham Beck and went on to Summer Cup glory, while the St. John Gray-trained Argo Alley finished a 3,50 length sixth and won Saturday’s WSB Heritage Consolation, while Unzen finished a 4,75 length seventh and won the Grand Heritage.
Unzen has had his issues and was laid off for six months from March until September this year.
He had shown signs of coming back to his best in his four comeback runs before the Grand Heritage, while at the same time being dropped eight points to a 100 merit rating.
However, in his last build up race, over 1400m, he had fought S’Manga Khumalo early and then probably hit the front too soon, which saw him mowed down late by both Silver Hills and Red Bomber.
It was not surprising that the plan on Saturday was to tuck him in to allow him to settle with cover and then get a tow.
This was especially the case because his low draw of two appeared to be the wrong side according to the trends produced by the earlier races.
Dennis Schwarz revealed afterwards he had hoped to get him covered and then track over.
However, it was not to be because he pulled early again.
Schwarz wisely let him go and he faced the breeze on the far side throughout.
However, Schwarz became confident as the race progressed because he saw out of the corner of his eye he was ahead of the outisde pack and he was still travelling supremely.
Unzen responded well to his urging and fended off the number five drawn Funky Music to win by 1,25 lengths.
The number one drawn Brave Viking was also right there and was beaten 1,60 lengths into fourth.
The unlucky horse in retrospect was the 1,50 length third-placed Chyavana.
Gavin Lerena had managed to get him over from draw nine in the 22 horse field right over to the perceived favourable outside for his flying finish.
With the benefit of hindsight Lerena might have switched him the other way in the early stages and that could have made a difference to the consistent Flower Alley gelding, who finished fifth last year off a seven point lower mark.
Chase Maujean had also decided to track over on the favourite Silent War from draw six and sit behind the main pack. The Gimmethegreenlight gelding ran on well but the inside horses had stolen too much ground and it was all in vain as he was beaten 2,30 lengths.
Unzen was bred by the Tawny Syndicate and is owned by Messrs M Lieveaux, L M Nestadt, J C Thomas, J R van der Linden & Mrs M N Thomas.
He has now won two feature races, carrying stakes of R400,000 and R500,000 respectively, but both were Non-Black Type events.
Richard Fourie did have the benefit of hindsight for the Consolation race over the same 1475m trip on the hot pot favourite The Africa House and perhaps that is why he switched him to the inside from a middle draw.
The big horse had come from last with telling finishes for fourth in vintage renewals of the Gr 3 Betway Graham Beck Stakes and Gr 2 Jonsson Workwear Dingaans over 1600m.
He was not as effective on Saturday in a handy position without cover and was beaten when squeezed out late between the start-to-finish winner Argo Alley and runner up Tsar Bomba, although that incident did see many PA tickets in the bin because it cost The Africa House third place.