Nature Strip Proves 2018 Oakleigh Plate Potential

Jockey Ryan Maloney is convinced next month’s Oakleigh Plate 2018 would be the “perfect race” for Robert Smerdon’s progressive three-year-old sprinter Nature Strip.

Ryan Maloney

Jockey Ryan Maloney is tipping Nature Strip as an early 2018 Oakleigh Plate contender on Blue Diamond Day at Caulfield. Photo: Race Horse Photos Australia.

Jumping aboard the smart Nicconi gelding for the third time on the trot at Sandown-Hillside on Wednesday, Maloney guided Nature Strip to an ultra-impressive five and a half-length win in the $40,000 United Petroleum Benchmark 70 Handicap (1000m).

Giving all the weight away with a hefty 60.5kg on his back, Nature Strip had an easy time accounting for his rivals as the odds-on favourite for his third win from four career starts.

Two back Nature Strip and Maloney combined with 60kg at Moonee Valley over the same 1000m distance on November 17, saluting by the same runaway five and a half-length winning margin.

Yesterday’s first-up performance was exactly as Maloney had predicted, the hoop full of pre-race confidence and post-win praise.

“I think he’s the real deal. The only horse I can measure him up against was Lina’s Hero which was unbeaten for Tony Vasil before being sold to Hong Kong,” Maloney told Racing Victoria.

“The most impressive part of the win was the fact he hadn’t had a trial leading into the race.

“He’s pulled up having a good blow and with natural improvement he’s only going to get better which is the scariest part.”

Maloney went on to say the handicap conditions for Nature Strip as a lightly-raced three-year-old in the Group 1 $500,000 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield Racecourse on Ladbrokes Blue Diamond Stakes Day on February 24 would suit the up-and-comer perfectly.

“As a three-year-old if they target him at the open class sprints then he’s going to get a light weight, if that race is the Oakleigh Plate then the way he’s going that would be a perfect race for him,” he said.

The last three-year-old to beat the older sprinters in the Oakleigh Plate was the Leon Corstens-trained Starspangledbanner back in 2010.

Smerdon meanwhile prepared his mare Shamal Wind for a 2015 Oakleigh Plate victory.

Nature Strip is set to have his next-up run at Flemington Racecourse in the $250,000 Inglis Dash (1100m) Saturday week where he will see the iconic straight track for the first time.

Third-up plans this Autumn Racing Carnival are to then run him back in Sydney on February 10 at Warwick Farm in the $250,000 Inglis Sprint (1100m).

To back Nature Strip next race and for the top all-in Group 1 autumn racing odds this season head to Ladbrokes.com.au.

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