Front running speed machine Nature Strip fought off all challengers to put himself back into contention for The Everest from a gutsy win in the Group 1 $1m Charter Keck Cramer Moir Stakes (1000m) at The Valley last night.
Winning jockey James McDonald didn’t rush Nature Strip out of the gates from the inside draw but let him find his rhythm before claiming the lead at the 700m after holding out Miss Leonidas and Ball Of Muscle.
Nature Strip led the field into the short Moonee Valley straight and had enough left in the tank to hold out the tenacious outsider Miss Leonidas ($31) to secure a neck victory.
The Tony and Calvin McEvoy trained Sunlight ($6) was doing her best work at the finish to claim the third prize in a tight photo just ahead of Faatinah ($31) and Bons Away ($15).
The punters stuck with Nature and sent him out as the $3.30 favourite for the Moir Stakes after the Chris Waller trained sprinter blew a tyre last start as the $2.30 favourite when fourth to Redzel in the Group 3 $160,000 Forum Concorde Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on September 7.
“I hope the punters had something on and got a bit back from last start when apparently I did everything wrong,” Waller said.
Waller is still hopeful that one of the remaining slot holders for the $14m The Everest (1200m) will select Nature Strip but if that doesn’t happen he will run in the Group 2 $400,000 Keno Schillaci Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield on October 12.
The Melbourne Racing Club also own a slot for the The Everest and will select the winner of the Schillaci Stakes to represent them in the $14m Sprint at Randwick on October 19.
“I don’t think 1200 metres is a problem,” Waller said looking ahead to The Everest.
“I’d say we’ll just see how it unfolds over the next few days. If he doesn’t get an invite to The Everest, I guess the Schillaci is the logical choice but there are plenty of options this time of year.”
Nature is marked at $17 for The Everest at Ladbrokes.com.au who have the Greg Hickman trained Pierata as the $5 favourite just ahead of multiple Group 1 winner Santa Ana Lane at $6.