THE Gr2 Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Fillies Guineas produced the finish of the day on a quality card at Turffontein Saturday, with 28-10 favourite Nafayees (AUS) prevailing by a nose over 17-1 chance Running Brave, in a driving finish.
The 16-strong field was packed with class 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 excellent bargain buy 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 throw of the dice to claim the winner’s purse for Sheikh Hamdan of Dubai.
Trainer Mike de Kock commented: “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.”
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.”
On to the Classic we go and it promises to be a thriller. Running Brave will be there again to seek revenge on Nafaayes, while third-placed Celtic Sea and fifth-placed Chitengo showed that they will also have a say over the extra 200m in next month’s race.
Nafaayes, by Exceed and Excel, has won four of six starts and she’s taken her stake earnings to a touch over R900,000.