Rob Heathcote’s special little filly Startantes...
Chris Waller’s ace sprinter Nature Strip could not have been more impressive with his runaway win over the world’s best sprinters in the TJ Smith Stakes 2020 ahead of a potential run in The Everest this spring.
Waller celebrated his first success in the $1.25 million TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Day 1 of The Championships with the easing favourite Nature Strip far too good for the top-class field.
The Nicconi five-year-old posted his fourth Group 1 success getting conditions to suit on the Heavy-rated track, Nature Strip presenting fit third-up off his Group 2 Challenge Stakes (1000m) win at the track on March 7.
First-up in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington the horse ran fourth as the beaten favourite fresh, but according to Waller has “been on his A-game” ever since.
“It’s an amazing race to watch when you’re training him, especially in a great field of sprinters. The best sprinters I would say around the world are assembled here today at Randwick and we’re very grateful to be still racing safely and doing it all responsibly, that’s just as rewarding in itself,” winning trainer Waller said after the race.
The first favourite in TJ Smith Stakes betting to salute since Lankan Rupee (2014), Waller’s star sprinter again had regular rider James McDonald in the saddle.
The duo jumped quick out the gates and went straight to the front, McDonald waiting for the pressure and challengers to come.
As it turned out his mount’s blistering early speed made it too hard for anything else in the field to even get a look-in, Nature Strip running his rivals ragged in a freakish display of talent and utterly dominant performance.
“Originally I thought there would be someone there to pressure me a little bit. I could see them coming across. Nature Strip was waiting for me to click him up, he went through his gears really well. From about the 800m I felt like he was airborne from there and he was high steaming from the top of the straight,” McDonald said.
“I knew he was going to be vulnerable late but it was just a matter of getting enough out of him towards the end. He is just going so well.”
It was game-on for Doncaster Day as Nature Strip ($4.20F) demolished his rivals including last year’s winner Santa Ana Lane ($9) who made up late ground to cross two lengths back second on the unsuitably Heavy ground.
“I just think he’s an amazing horse. First up he’s alway a little bit soft and he showed that this prep but since then he’s been on his A game and James does a great job with him,” Waller said.
“What he does to his rivals is he makes it so hard for them to stay with him and gee from the 600m mark to the 300m mark you can see they’re all just struggling to stay with him. And he can still maintain it for 1200m.
“So wow, what a great horse and we’ve got a lot to look forward to.”
Rounding out the TJ Smith Stakes trifecta for 2020 was then Team Snowden’s two-time The Everest champion Redzel ($15), the veteran seven-year-old giving another brave run at the highest level.
After such a powerhouse performance, Waller said the temptation was there to stretch Nature Strip out over further distance, but that they wouldn’t be greedy and a back-up into the Group 1 $600,000 All Aged Stakes (1400m) on April 18 was unlikely.
Instead the focus would be on the upcoming spring carnival with Nature Strip sure to have plenty of buyers looking to fill their slot in the world’s richest turf race when The Everest (1200m) takes place back at Randwick on October 17.
“We’d be very tempted but do we need to? I’d say there’d be plenty of people chasing him in the Everest and that’s a big race,” Waller said.
“He’s very effective at 1200m, and I think more effective at 1200m than 1000m, so at 1400m he would be but the big races at 1400m are sort of a gap distance so I think we’ll stick to 1200m for a while.
“After today’s dominant win I doubt we’d need to go to the All Aged, we don’t need to be greedy.”
Nature Strip lined-up in last year’s $14 million The Everest field as a $26 shot and ran 1.3 lengths back fourth behind his gun young stablemate Yes Yes Yes.
Looking a more mature and seasoned horse this year, he currently leads the all-in 2020 The Everest odds online at Ladbrokes.com.au paying $6.
2020 TJ Smith Stakes Results
|1||1||NATURE STRIP||Chris Waller||James McDonald||–||1||58.5kg||$4.20F|
|2||3||SANTA ANA LANE||Anthony Freedman||Tim Clark||2L||2||58.5kg||$9|
|3||4||REDZEL||Peter & Paul Snowden||Kerrin McEvoy||2.2L||3||58.5kg||$15|
|4||2||PIERATA||Gregory Hickman||Tommy Berry||2.4L||9||58.5kg||$5.50|
|5||10||TOFANE (NZ)||Michael Moroney||Opie Bosson||3L||8||56.5kg||$26|
|6||7||BIVOUAC||James Cummings||Hugh Bowman||3.4L||6||56.5kg||$4.80|
|7||5||TREKKING||James Cummings||Joshua Parr||5.1L||4||58.5kg||$31|
|8||8||IN HER TIME||Kris Lees||Brenton Avdulla||5.4L||5||56.5kg||$71|
|9||9||EXCEEDANCE||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||Sam Clipperton||5.6L||10||56.5kg||$10|
|10||11||WHITE MOSS||Jason Coyle||Ms Kathy O’Hara||5.9L||7||56.5kg||$151|
|11||13||LOVING GABY||Ciaron Maher & David Eustace||Glen Boss||11.6L||12||54.5kg||$7|
|12||6||VEGADAZE||Anthony Cummings||Adam Hyeronimus||18.3L||11||58.5kg||$71|
|–||12||STANDOUT||Gerald Ryan||Nash Rawiller||–||0||–||–|
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