Speed machine Nature Strip kept his loyal followers happy when he was able to turn his form around to score an all the way win in the Group 2 $500,000 Hyland Race Colours Challenge Stakes (1000m) at Randwick today.
The Chris Waller trained Nature Strip had to limp back to Sydney after missing a place as the odds on favourite when fourth in the Group 1 $750,000 Black Caviar Lightning but the champion Sydney trainer never lost faith.
“We took it a bit cheap last start. We didn’t really have a tactic of harnessing how much speed he does have and unfortunately that can get him into a bit of trouble. When you are burning that much gas, the gas runs out,” Waller said.
“Here today he was a little more relaxed and the horse was in a good comfort zone. He put a couple of little head wobbles in (like Ronnie Dufficy does) and that was a good sign coming up the rise. He let down beautifully today.
Nature Strip was easy in the betting with his price drifting out from $2.45 to $3.10 but he was still sent out as the favourite and rewarded his followers for staying faithful.
Winning jockey James McDonald wasn’t frightened to win the speed battle up front in the early stages before letting Nature Strip power away in the straight to record his thirteenth win from twenty-one starts.
Runner up Redzel ($4.40) found himself in the unusual position tucked in behind the leaders, but once he found clear space in the straight worked to line strongly as did third placegetter Jungle Edge ($31).
Waller said that now Nature Strip was back in winning form, he would step back up to Group 1 company in the $2.5m T J Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on Day One of The Championships on April 4.
“Back on track for that. I was dead keen to run him in the Canterbury Stakes at 1300m but it went pear shaped last start. It will take a very good horse to beat him. The Newmarket today was fantastic and all those horses will come up,” Waller said.
Nature Strip is now the $6 second pick for the T J Smith Stakes behind today’s Newmarket Handicap winner Bivouac who heads the betting at $4.50 at Ladbrokes.com.au.