Driefontein maintained an unbeaten course towards the Golden Slipper despite being given a major fright in the $100,000 Widden Stakes at Warwick Farm on Saturday.
Now unbeaten in four starts, including a win on protest over stablemate No Looking Back in last month’s Magic Millions, Driefontein had to rally from the brink more than once in the Listed event.
Her race was almost over before it started when she reared in the barrier stalls and although she recovered to race in the box seat, it took the length of the straight for her to overhaul Agueda.
“It’s a silly little habit she has developed (in the gates) but she is one thing and she’s tough,” trainer Gai Waterhouse said.
Driefontein stifled betting as the $1.55 favourite but her quote didn’t translate into Widden dominance as he scraped home by a head over Agueda ($18).
Hussousa ($3.60) stormed home late from the back to finish a close third – another long neck away.
Driefontein is a $13 chance to win the $3.5 million Golden Slipper at Rosehill on April 7 in a market top-heavy with Waterhouse-trained youngsters.
The filly, a daughter of sire sensation Fastnet Rock, has now banked enough prizemoney to earn a Golden Slipper start but Waterhouse said she was unsure what path she would take into the race.
“I’ll have to think about that,” she said. “We know where we are going. She’s got the prizemoney now but I’ll just have to shoot the breeze and look at where we place her next.”
Jockey Tommy Berry said Driefontein supporters had no cause for worry despite the closeness of the result.
“When she took the run up the rail I was always confident,” Berry said.
“With every stride she kept on getting closer little by little.”
Agueda almost stole the race for jockey Peter Robl while the return of Gimcrack Stakes winner Hussousa was encouraging for the Patinack Farm team.
Hussousa was ridden along by Brazilian jockey Joao Moreira from the middle stages but flew late to be involved in a busy finish.
“She was off the bit the whole way but I didn’t want to wait for a run so that’s why I came around them,” Moreira said.
“I expect she will improve a lot off that run.”