No Gavin, no win. That was how trainer Paul Peter described the victory of Forest Fox in Saturday’s WSB Grand Heritage over 1475m at the Vaal.
Forest Fox (16-1) was brought on the scene quite late by jockey Gavin Lerena in this R750,000 Non-Black Type race to inch out Port Elizabeth raider Classify (20-1) by 0.40 lengths with Starre City (44-1) third and Morpheus (45-1) in fourth. This always looked like a Quartet worth catch- ing, especially in a 28-horse eld, and that proved to be the case. The pool reached R620,501.50 and R439,916.15 was carried over.
“Gavin insisted he wanted to ride this horse even though he had other options,” said Peter yesterday. “Forest Fox has issues and does not have the biggest of hearts. He o en turns it up when the chips were down. I even told Gavin he should rather ride Maximizer but he said ‘I’ve got a plan in store for him’.
“I never had all that much confidence because he has disappointed us in the past. But I must say he did look very well.
“All I can say is that no other jockey would have won on him.” That ensured Lerena retained his 100% win record in this race as he won it last year on Irish Pride, the first running of the race. After the win Lerena gave his reasons for choosing Forest Fox. “He was well weighted and he came right this time last year when he ran second in the Heritage Consolation. Mr Peter’s stable is in top form and I thought ‘let’s take a chance’.”
Peter was delighted to win the race for owners Bernard Kantor, Hassen Adams, the Nassifs and HyperpaintSyndicate.
Classify looks to be well above average and owner/trainer Dorrie Sham, who picked him up for just R5,000 at the Adriaan van Vuuren sale of horses last year, believed he was too good to run just in Port Elizabeth.
He put up a tremendous run under Francois Herholdt and might still spend a little longer on the Highveld before returning him.
“When they try that hard you can’t fault them,” Sham told Phumelela Publishing colleague Patrick Nkosi. “I was thinking of taking my baby back home, but after a performance like this I might keep him here a little longer. He could contest a couple more features in Gauteng.”
As far as Forest Fox’s future is concerned Peter said he would “be keeping an eye on the Charity Mile”.
“He is currently rated 89 and will go up a bit after this win but he should be able to come into the race with a nice weight.”
Forest Fox has not been the easiest of horses to handle as he has had his problems. “He is anaemic, he had cancer in his eye which we had to cut out, and he’s in ulcer medication. He has so many allergies.”
Peter had two more winners on the day and one who is worth watching is Pera Palace, who destroyed a strong eld in the Sophomore 1000. Brave Mary, winner of the Grade 1 Allan Robertson, could only manage second place, beaten two lengths, but she could well have been in need of the run. Pera Palace went o at 14-1 but spread-eagled the field and never looked like losing.
Racing fans looked on horrified as Peter’s other runner, Alpine Echo, was pulled up in the closing stages and then fell over on the track. It looked as if he had broken down but the news is not that bad. He bled badly and choked up in running, causing him to fall. However, once that cleared up he just got up a walked back to the stables.”
“He’s made a full recovery. He ate up well on Saturday night and will get a long suspension. He will be out for quite a while though, and I’m not sure he will run again,” said Peter.
The win by 25-1 shot Promise in Race 3 was even a shock for the yard. “She’s showed us fair work but only had minimum of grass work and I wasn’t expecting her to run that well.”