THERE was a riveting finish to Saturday’s Gr2 Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Fillies Guineas at Turffontein in which Mike de Kock’s Nafayees (28-10 favourite) edged out the 17-1 chance Running Brave.
The 16-strong field was packed with quality and, following a steady pace into the turn by Saints Alive, the race unfolded fast and a fairly compact front line consisting of six smart fillies raced eagerly through the 350m-mark and into the business end.
Paul Matchett’s Running Brave looked to assert herself with 150m to go, but Nafaayes had found top gear and she ranged up alongside her free-striding rival and stuck her head in front at the 100m-pole. Running Brave fought back gamely, but Nafaayes won the heads-up-heads-down contest to claim the winner’s purse.
Jockey Warren Kennedy, proven as a man with big-match-temperament, offered: “We tracked Running Brave throughout. We got past her but she headed us again late, Nafaayes put her head down when it mattered. She was resolute.”
Kennedy thanked the stable, saying: “I was glad to get ride back after winning on her last time.”
Mike dcommented: “Nafaayes beat older fillies at weight-for-age last time, which explains her high rating. This was another good win for her because she’s had a two-month layoff and she felt it near the end today. The 1800m of the Fillies Classic will be okay for her, probably just within her reach, but beyond that we’d be stretching it.”
Nafaayes, by Exceed and Excel, has won four of six starts and she’s taken her stake earnings to a touch over R900,000 for Sheikh Hamdan of Dubai.
Mike said: “Sheikh Hamdan is a lucky owner because he is such a wonderful owner. He and Angus Gold leave us to get on with the job and it’s been a long and successful relationship.”