Comeback king Jim Byrne is confident he can...
Winx and the Golden Slipper were the headline acts at Rosehill on Saturday, but it was the Group 1 Galaxy Stakes (1100m) that stole the show in a thrilling photo finish.
After a five minute delay, it was Nature Strip who won by a nose over Pierata on the heavy track. Dictating the pace from the front, the former Darren Weir prodigy enjoyed his typical run up on speed, exploding from the final turn only to be challenged by Pierata with less than 100m to go.
The pair danced towards the finish, but one final tired lunge from Nature Strip saw him win by the narrowest of margins. The effort earned new trainer Chris Waller his third Group 1 victory of the day, although he admits Nature Strip was fighting against the odds in a stacked field comprising of dual Everest winner Redzel.
“He’s just a lovely horse to train, we’ve just got to get it into his head on race day that the winning post is not at the 300m mark. But from the wide draw on the wet track today there was a lot against us so he needed to be pretty tough to win” Waller said after the win.
“I think getting horses from good trainers they come to you in good condition, plenty of meat, plenty of muscle. We basically just looked after him and he’s been quite impressive today.”
Nature Strip entered the race at $5.00 odds as punters steered away from the speedy sprinter first-up on the wet track. A disappointing 10th place finish in last month’s Oakleigh Plate also added to the equation, but it wasn’t enough to deter winning jockey James McDonald from feeling confident in his ride.
“The team has done an amazing job. From the first time I sat on him he felt like a really good sprinter” McDonald said.
“Things don’t really go his way and he makes it hard for himself. He sprung the gates really well and I just sat on him like a quiet church mouse. I thought the give in the ground would be to his assistance and it was.”
While Pierata ran exceptionally well to swoop in late for second, there was no such luck for Redzel, who went backwards on the sticky track to finish eighth. The Joseph Pride trained Easy Eddie also showed tremendous guts to quicken with the leaders to finish third.
“We copped a bit of a bump at the 600m which just put us off stride and wasn’t able to regain his ability to travel in that ground and get back into the race” Redzel jockey Kerrin McEvoy said.
Redzel will likely head to Randwick on April 6 to contest the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes alongside Nature Strip.
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