The WSB Grand Heritage is horse racing’s way of saying to punters they aren’t as clever as they thought they were. The latest iteration is on Saturday at the Vaal, with the Highveld’s country venue getting its day in the spotlight.
It’s a hellish awkward race, with a strange 1,475m distance, a mix of sprinters and milers of various merit rating levels, an enormous field of 28 runners, a welter of confusing collateral form, and some raiders from the coast. Sort that lot out, the racing gods challenge and taunt us.
Almost counter-intuitively, the Grand Heritage is a popular betting race. Instead of putting punters off with its opaqueness, it draws them in with its great value proposition.
On Friday, the sponsor’s site had only two of the 28 on offer in single figures: 6-1 Dyce and 9-1 Prophet.
The former looks like a very good horse in the making and probably deserves to be favourite. The latter has not been disgraced at a higher level and is versatile.
However, so many others in the field also have much to recommend them. The R500,000 purse has enticed trainers to enter those horses in their stables that have shown themselves near top level but that now need chances to raise profiles and confidence.
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In-form trainers Sean Tarry and Johan Janse van Vuuren saddle four apiece and at least half of them could be included in wider perms.
The prize money has also been enough of an incentive to stir Gqeberha supremo Gavin Smith and KwaZulu-Natal’s Carl Hewitson – with Safari Blue and Sea Master respectively. You’d image they wouldn’t be travelling all that way without a smidgeon of confidence. But, then again, racing folk are a breed apart with their eternal optimism.
So, what to do?
Here’s an idea: Pin the horses’ names to a wall, apply blindfold, throw dart, back horse the dart hits.
Or you could consult the ouija board. Or try to unpick that form.
A SHORT-LIST SELECTION
2 Outofthedarkness, 4 Irish Tractor, 7 Dyce, 10 Safari Blue, 11 Indlamu, 22 Midnight Gem, 25 Gallic Tribe