In a thrilling finish to Saturday’s Group 2 Gauteng Fillies Guineas at Turffontein, the Mike de Kock-trained Nafaayes just edged out the Running Brave who certainly lived up to her name with a battling performance. The 16 runners were packed with quality and, following a steady early pace dictated 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 rival and stuck her head in front at the 100m pole.
Running Brave fought back gamely, but Nafaayes won in a bobbing finish to claim the winner’s purse. Her delighted jockey, Warren Kennedy, proven as a man with ‘big match temperament’, said: “We tracked Running Brave throughout. We went past her but she headed us again late, before Nafaayes put her head down when it mattered. She was resolute. “I was glad to get ride the back after winning on her last time and she is a nice filly.” De Kock added: “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 break 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 has taken her Stakes earnings to a touch over R900,000 for Sheikh Hamdan. The trainer continued: “Sheikh Hamdan is a lucky owner because he is such a wonderful owner. He and his racing manager, Angus Gold, leave us to get on with the job and it has been a long and successful relationship.” De Kock and Sheikh Hamdan were denied a Guineas double in the colts’ equivalent, having to settle for second and third with Hawwaam and Barahin respectively in a race won by National Park.