VIVA Maria (50-1), raced around the field early in Saturday’s R500,000 Woolavington Stakes (Gr1), and kept galloping strongly to beat stablemate Ilha Bela by four lengths.
The powerful filly by Jet Master from Bardot was allowed to stride freely throughout by Anthony Delpech and this proved to be the key to victory, as she maintained her gallop for the duration of the race and left most of her rivals flatfooted halfway down the straight.
“I tried to fight her before, but the faster they go the better she is and the race suited me. Nobody came to take us on,” said Delpech after the race. “I did what she wanted to do, she did her own thing. She’s a bit difficult in the morning but I’ve learnt to ride her and it paid off. She’s a good filly.”
Mike de Kock commented: “Restraining Viva Maria in front in her last two races wasn’t the right thing to do. She needs to gallop within herself and I instructed Anthony to let her stride. He rode a really good race. She got away and ran hard all the way to the line. Viva Maria had won three successive races in handicap conditions earlier so she’s always had the ability.”
Mike was satisfied with Ilha Bela’s performance. The odds-on favourite got going well in the last 200m and made up ground on Viva Maria. He said: “Ilha Bela’s run was a cracking one in my opinion. I was impressed with what I saw. She will improve and the extra 200m of the Durban July will be right up her alley.”
Viva Maria was bred and is owned by Mike Rattray’s Lammerskraal Stud and Mike added: “Mr Rattray is a big supporter of the yard and well done to Lammerskraal for this Grade 1 winner. They deserve it.”
The stable also won a Maiden Juvenile Plate over 1200m with the Jooste family’s Captain Al colt Captain Firth, who looked in trouble going into the business end but kicked well into gear and ran on strongly to win under Anton Marcus.
“Captain Firth is from the family of Kildonan and blinkers got him to focus to day. He’ll win a few more,” said Mike.
Atlantic Oak completed a treble for the yard with a game win in a Conditions Plate for fillies and mares over 1900m. Like Viva Maria, she took up the running early under Delpech, not getting as far clear but staying on tenaciously to fight off challenges from Croc Valley on her inside and Hijacked on her outside to win going away.
“Atlantic Oak is typical of Northern Hemisphere bred fillies in that they get better and better,” said Mike. “This was a great win for my team who put in such hard work. We didn’t buy Atlantic Oak for a lot of money, though she is from the family of Fort Wood. She’s decent, she has a Listed or a Gr3 feature in her. We’ll go for the Queen Palm with her.”
Mike owns Atlantic Oak in partnership with Dr John McVeigh and Jehan Malherbe.
Meanwhile Vettel ran his heart out to finish second behind Brett Crawford’s champion Jackson in the Daily News 2000 and Mike was pleased, saying: “This was a super run. He wasn’t stopping, he ran on very well.”