The Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Cox...
Chris Waller’s star sprinter Nature Strip is narrow favourite in TJ Smith Stakes 2020 betting for this weekend at Royal Randwick after coming up trumps with the inside barrier draw.
Day 1 of ‘The Championships’ features four elite level races including the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) worth a reduced $1.25 million in prizemoney as the industry looks to stay afloat amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is a typically star-studded TJ Smith Stakes field with 13 to do battle this autumn, the current top elect being Nature Strip in barrier one with James McDonald continuing his association on the $4.3 million earner.
Nicconi five-year-old Nature Strip has run either first or fourth in his last eight starts going back to his Group 1 The Galaxy (1100m) win at Rosehill last autumn.
He has celebrated two subsequent Group 1 wins in Melbourne and was last seen beating home two-time The Everest champ Redzel by three lengths at Randwick on March 7 in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes (1000m).
Lankan Rupee (2014) was the last TJ Smith Stakes favourite to salute for the punters however and so there are sure to be plenty looking for value further down the markets this weekend.
A further four horses are also under double-figures for the win including the $4.80 second elect Bivouac for Godolphin.
The James Cummings-trained Exceed And Excel colt is drawn midfield in barrier six looking to return to winning form after his third as the beaten favourite at The Valley in the Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m).
Prior to that he won the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) down the Flemington straight by two and a half lengths defeating his subsequent next-up conqueror Loving Gaby who he faces again in the TJ Smith Stakes.
Loving Gaby is at $6 to post another Group 1 success, the Moonee Valley specialist racing in Sydney for the first time since her back-to-back seconds at Randwick last autumn.
She was runner-up in both the Group 1 Inglis Sires’ (1400m) and Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m) over further, before finding her best form in the Melbourne sprints.
Ciaron Maher & David Eustace’s I Am Invincible filly has been the picture of consistency at the highest level against the older horses all campaign, but will be tested from the outside barrier (13) with Glen Boss aboard this weekend.
The other best in betting are the defending TJ Smith Stakes champion Santa Ana Lane ($5.50) and the Gregory Hickman-trained Pierata ($8) drawn in barriers two and nine respectively.
Anthony Freedman’s now seven-year-old Lope De Vega gelding won the TJ Smith Stakes last season off an unplaced run in the Newmarket Handicap and chases his first win since.
He has been competitive in plenty since returning from the credible fourth in Hong Kong’s Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint (1200m) last April and is out to improve on his first-up sixth in the Challenge Stakes.
Fitter for the run and better suited at the 1200m, Santa Ana Lane is out to join Black Caviar (2011, 2013) and three-time hero Chautauqua (2015-17) as multiple winners of the sprint feature.
Pierata meanwhile is also second-up in the TJ Smith Stakes field and has Chautauqua’s three-time winning hoop Tommy Berry booked for the ride.
The five-year-old Pierro entire has excellent form at the Randwick track (12:5-3-0), last year’s inaugural $1 million Redzel Stakes winner coming off a fifth when just over two lengths off the winner in The Galaxy on March 21.
2020 TJ Smith Stakes Field & Barriers
|Form (Last 10)
|SANTA ANA LANE
|Peter & Paul Snowden
|IN HER TIME
|Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes
|Ms Kathy O’Hara
|Ciaron Maher & David Eustace
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