Trainer Ashley Fortune has lauded Phumelela’s initiative to stage the Grand Heritage Match Race on Saturday 8 December down the Vaal straight track and says that the Fortune Racing Team was looking forward to what should prove to be a crowd puller.
“We are ready to take on Soldier On in a R250 000 winner-take-all race. The Vaal straight was the original pitch for the Grand Heritage and we support Phumelela’s decision to hold the race there. It has been 28 years since the Divine Act-Brainteaser match race which created so much interest. These may not be top division horses, but the concept is a visually and tactically exciting one that should grab the public’s imagination,” she added in an interview with the Sporting Post on Sunday.
Mrs Fortune’s comments follow a report on Turf Talk that indicates that trainer Stuart Pettigrew is annoyed that the Grand Heritage Match Race has been scheduled for the straight course over 1475m.
It is reported that Pettigrew has given notice that his runner Soldier On, winner of the Grand Series Leg 1 at Turffontein, may not participate in the race.
“The Grand Heritage was planned for the Vaal and moved to Turffontein, now the match race is back at the Vaal. Soldier On’s owner Terry Kung and I have discussed the matter. We don’t believe this is fair and I don’t think we’ll race,” Pettigrew told Turf Talk.
Phumelela Racing Executive Clyde Basel said that he sincerely hoped that Pettigrew would change his mind so that the race can take place between Soldier On and Tsitsikamma Dance.
Basel said: “If Soldier On is pulled out, Paul Matchett’s Dan The Lad will take his berth, but the idea is to have the winners face each other in a straight contest.”
Pettigrew’s opposition to the move back to the original venue is rather puzzling.
The 28 strong Grand Heritage was scheduled for the 1475m Vaal straight on 29 September. He entered and accepted Soldier On to run there. Why he would have an issue now defies fair reason.
“We are excited and looking forward to it. I really hope he doesn’t pull out and dampen the occasion for the public and the sponsors. There is so much negativity every week. When a good thing is happening at a happy holiday time of the year, we should all be getting behind it and aiming to pull a record crowd at the Vaal. Maybe it’s a bit of clever needle and gamesmanship on his part,” said Andrew Fortune.