VIVA Maria (10-1, photo)) pulled herself to the front soon after the start of a MR85 Handicap over 2000m at Clairwood on Thursday and simply refused to give in.
Young apprentice Julius Mariba had his hands full in the early part of the race, but he kept his cool and the Jet Master filly eventually settled into stride, turned nicely into the straight and kept plugging away against most expectations.
At the 200m mark, a group of runners swooped on both sides of Viva Maria and on her heels, looking to challenge and unsettle her, but the 4kg claiming Mariba remained focused and she found more still, staying on for a 0.75-length win.
This was the fifth winner of Mariba’s career and he commented: “Mr Kotzen (Nathan – assistant trainer), told me to follow one or two others and send her once we got to the straight, but Viva Maria was keen and got to the front rightaway.
“After the bend I could feel she still had lots left in the tank so I left her and she just kept on galloping strongly. Thanks to Anthony Delpech for his advice. I spoke to him this morning and he told me to bounce her and go to the front.”
Kotzen said: “Julius rides a lot of work for us and he deserved his chance, the weight off Viva Maria’s backed helped a lot. Thanks to Tammi Dawson who has done plenty of work with the filly.”
Mike de Kock commented: “Well done to Mr Rattray and Lammerskraal Stud. I spoke to him today and I know he watched the race. Viva Maria is a decent filly, I would’ve thought she was much better than a 10-1 shot.”
Mike saddled Kahal’s daughter Checcetti (Anthony Delpech) – third to Igugu in the Ipi Tombe Challenge earlier this month – to an easy win in Race 2 over 1600m at Turffontein. She was rated much higher than her rivals in this Graduation Plate, deservingly started 11-20 favourite and gave her supporters no anxious moments.
Mike said after the race: “She’s a 1800m -2000m filly and this was a good win. I think she’s capable of winning a Listed feature.”
Checcetti is owned by Mike in partnership with her breeder Mick Goss of Summerhill Stud, Tony Moodley and Vanessa Harrison. She races in Moodley’s silks.