Sharapova had to dig deep to win her Maiden over 1450m at Turffontein’s inside track on Thursday and she did so admirably, holding off the gelding Gimme a Diamond in determined fashion at the end of a nailbiting tussle that lasted more than 250m.
Kabelo Matsunyane had done everything right from Sharapova’s favourable draw – appeared to have his timing spot-on when he let her off the bit to dash for home at the 400m-mark. But Piere Strydom, in typical ‘Striker’ fashion, unleashed his own mount Gimme A Diamond up the middle and then steered him across to take the filly on, side-by-side.
It was exciting to watch. With 100m to run, the duel looked like it was going Strydom’s way, but Matsunyane coaxed extra from Sharapova and this was a notable achievement for both filly and rider. The jock kept his cool and Sharapova gave a bit more under pressure. She won by a neck, avoiding the enlargement of the judge’s photo.
Matsunyane suggested he was honoured to have beaten “Mr Strydom” in a finish – Piere still being the master he is in the twilight of his career – and this would have done wonders for the young rider’s already blossoming confidence.
Mike de Kock commented: “This was a nice win by Sharapova, she has scope and given her pedigree, she probably wants to go a mile. She has been threatening to win, we were unlucky in Cape Town with interruptions in her prep. If she gets a decent rating and starts in the right place she can win a few more.”
Sharapova races for Jessica and Steven Jell. She’s a daughter of Querari and the G1 ace, Nother Russia.