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Versachet seeks spot in French American Trotting Club final
Saturday, August 25, 2018 - by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

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Yonkers, NY --- The husband and wife team of Michel Heijnen and Maria De Bruijn have just three horses in their racing stable, and French trotter Versachet is one. De Bruijn wanted to add a horse to the roster earlier this year. Heijnen wanted to claim a horse, but De Bruijn took a less conventional path, much to the chagrin of her husband.

“I was looking for another horse, and my husband said to buy a claimer,” De Bruijn said. “You never know what you’re going to get with a claimer, so I said, ‘you know, I’m going to try a French horse,’ and he started laughing. But you never know.”

Heijnen and De Bruijn are natives of the Netherlands and came to the United States three years ago. De Bruijn sought a change from their life on the farm at home and after Heijnen made a trip to the Harrisburg Sale, an opportunity arose. Heijnen developed a bond with Chuck Sylvester and the Hall of Fame trainer asked them to work with him in Florida over the winter.

“He went with a friend to the Harrisburg Sale and he went to Chester and met Chuck Sylvester,” De Bruijn said. “He liked it and he was joking with Chuck and Chuck called him and asked him what he was doing in the winter. He said, ‘you can come help me out in Florida.’ He went working for Chuck and we got our visa, sold our farm, and we’re here.”

The French American Trotting Club was a gamble, as Heijnen and De Bruijn both understood. The Standardbred Owners Association of New York program brought 22 French-bred trotters to the United States to race in a series on the half-mile track at Yonkers Raceway. As the horses were randomly allocated to their new owners, De Bruijn wouldn’t get a chance to research her horse before he arrived.

De Bruijn drew Versachet, a 9-year-old son of Kaiser Soza out of the Podosis mare Houlette with 10 wins from 78 starts with another 19 seconds and thirds and $263,796 earned. The black gelding made an immediate impression on De Bruijn when he arrived stateside in June.

“I picked him up and oh my god, he’s so big. He’s huge,” she said. “He was a little shy and a very friendly and nice horse. Sound horse. He doesn’t make a break up until now. I’m happy with him.”

Versachet qualified at Yonkers July 13, finishing fourth and completing the 10 furlongs in 2:30.1 with Heijnen in the sulky. Heijnen and De Bruijn qualified him again at the Meadowlands 15 days later, but Versachet underperformed. He finished sixth, beaten 9-1/4 lengths in 1:55.1 and Heijnen knew something was off.

“We qualified him first at Yonkers and he went OK. Then we qualified him at Meadowlands and Michel said he wasn’t so satisfied with him in the stretch, so we scoped him and we thought that he might bleed a little,” De Bruijn said. “We scoped him after the qualifier at the Meadowlands and the lady said he’s bleeding. We asked how bad it was and she said, ‘if it was my horse, I’d put him on Lasix.’”

Heijnen and De Bruijn had never used Lasix in a race before as the medication isn’t permitted in Europe. Because he bled, Versachet was unable to race in New York for 11 days and he was forced to miss the first leg of the French American Trotting Club series Aug. 5.

Versachet qualified with Lasix at Harrah’s Philadelphia Aug. 7, finishing second in a 1:56 clocking. Ready to join the series, he started in a $35,000 division going 1-1/2 miles Aug. 19. After drawing post five, Heijnen had two options, to go forward and put himself in the race, or to take back. De Bruijn wanted him to be aggressive, but the move didn’t pay off. Versachet was parked the entire race, but finished sixth, beaten just 3-1/4 lengths by Deo. De Bruijn was encouraged.

“My husband drove him and he didn’t want to. He wanted a Yonkers driver to go with him, but I like it when he drives, so he did,” De Bruijn said. “Parked outside. He could have gone back or he could have given him a race and I said to just go from there. So he was parked all the way out one and a half miles. I think he raced nice.”

Versachet drew post five again in Sunday’s sixth race, the second of two $35,000 divisions of the series’ third leg, the last before the $100,000 final Sept. 2. Jordan Stratton will drive the 6-1 morning line shot. A first or second-place finish would likely earn Versachet a place in the final.

“I think if he doesn’t get a bad trip like he had last week, he’s one, two for sure,” De Bruijn said. “Honestly, maybe I have too much confidence in him, but I think he’s one of the better French horses.”

Versachet will face six rivals, including 8-5 favorite Uhlan Noir, who was third, beaten a nose by Deo and Boss Du Fosse last week and starts from post four Sunday. Akhenaton finished seventh with a wide trip from post eight last time out, but drew the inside post Sunday and is 6-1. Aigle De La Vallee broke in the first leg of the series, but re-qualified and won a Saratoga overnight Aug. 17. He’s 5-2 from post two. Aladin Du Dollar, Bolide De Nuit, and Verdi D Em complete the field.

The first division of the third leg features both of last week’s winners in Ursis Des Caillons and Deo, plus first leg winner Alpha D’Urzy, and series-placed Undici, Bioness, and Boss Du Fosse. Adagio De La Tour and Very Very Fast complete the lineup.

First post time Sunday is 12:45 p.m. The 11-race card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Trot in race one. For entries to the races, click here.

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