The countdown to the Sydney Spring Racing...
Chris Waller’s reigning champion and Australian Horse of the Year, Nature Strip, is tipped to return to winning form and salute for the punters in the 2021 TJ Smith Stakes this Saturday in Sydney.
Day 1 of ‘The Championships’ takes place at Royal Randwick on the weekend and one of the four elite level features on the card is the Group 1 $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) for the sprinters.
A top-class field of 11 is engaged in the lucrative weight-for-age showdown and it is last year’s winner Nature Strip sitting top of the latest TJ Smith Stakes odds online at $3.60 through Ladbrokes.com.au.
The Nicconi gelding won the event by two lengths on a Heavy (8) track 12 months ago and has won just one subsequent race.
He was a first-up Flemington winner in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) in mid-February before his lead-up second when going down as the odds-on favourite to Eduardo at Randwick on March 6 in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes (1000m).
Nature Strip is tipped to turn the tables on his last start conqueror having been kept fresh again for the TJ Smith Stakes title defence.
The six-year-old has also won a recent Rosehill trial ahead of his shot at back-to-back wins in the race for the first time since the three-peat of the great grey Chautauqua (2015-17).
The danger occupying the second line of TJ Smith Stakes betting this Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival at $4.40 is Joe Pride’s Challenge Stakes winner Eduardo.
The in-form seven-year-old son of Host franked the form of that event when racing again on March 27 at Rosehill to score a dominant three and a half-length victory in the Group 1 The Galaxy (1100m).
Still lightly-raced for his age having his 20th career start on the weekend, the talented chestnut is out to be the first horse to complete The Galaxy – TJ Smith Stakes double in the same season since La Baraka (1998).
He looks well-positioned to do so however drawn barrier eight for Brenton Avdulla who comes aboard for the ride and should enjoy the 1200m with previous winning form up to 1300m.
In an open edition of the TJ Smith there are a further three runners under $10 for the win including the early market mover, $6 third elect Bivouac.
Drawn gate two with Hugh Bowman aboard, the Godolphin-raced Exceed And Excel four-year-old is after his first victory since beating Nature Strip home by over three lengths in last November’s Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) down the Flemington straight.
He was somewhat disappointing when fifth first-up in the Black Caviar Lightning at that track before going up to the 1300m second-up at Randwick for the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m).
Far from disgraced he finished fourth to Savatiano there and should enjoy the 1200m third-up on the weekend at the track and distance he finished runner-up to Classique Legend over in last October’s $15 million The Everest.
The other best fancied are equal $8 picks Masked Crusader for Hawkes Racing and stablemate to the favourite, Haut Brion Her.
Toronado four-year-old Masked Crusader scored a two-length win at this track and distance in the Group 3 Southern Cross Stakes back in February before an eye-catching third in the Canterbury Stakes.
He was back to winning form last start in Melbourne at The Valley on March 19 with William Pike guiding him to a big victory in the Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m).
Haut Brion Her meanwhile is second-up with Jamie Kah to ride the five-year-old Zoustar mare who has an excellent record at the distance (7:4-2-0).
She resumed racing late last month in The Galaxy running a distant fifth but will be better over further second-up here.
Along with Nature Strip and Haut Brion Her, last year’s winning trainer Waller also saddles-up his Coolmore Stud Stakes winning filly September Run ($14) in the outside barrier (11) as she looks to improve on the lead-up fourth in the William Reid Stakes.
2021 TJ Smith Stakes Field & Barriers
|No||Last 10||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Probable Weight||Penalty||Hcp Rating|
|1||365x321x54||BIVOUAC||James Cummings||Hugh Bowman||2||58.5kg||118|
|2||11x2472x12||NATURE STRIP||Chris Waller||James McDonald||5||58.5kg||118|
|3||7x11204x11||EDUARDO||Joseph Pride||Brenton Avdulla||8||58.5kg||116|
|4||400x114x71||ZOUTORI||Mathew Ellerton & Simon Zahra||Luke Currie||10||58.5kg||113|
|5||11x238x131||MASKED CRUSADER||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||7||58.5kg||111|
|6||11x3413x54||DIRTY WORK||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||9||58.5kg||107|
|7||53x3722x32||ORDER OF COMMAND||Danny O’Brien||Damien Oliver||6||58.5kg||105|
|8||x573x6111x||ELEVEN ELEVEN||Gregory Hickman||Keagan Latham||3||58.5kg||104|
|9||3x49x183x3||LIBERTINI||Anthony Cummings||Tommy Berry||1||56.5kg||110|
|10||221x1752x5||HAUT BRION HER||Chris Waller||Ms Jamie Kah||4||56.5kg||108|
|11||1x5111x204||SEPTEMBER RUN||Chris Waller||Craig Williams||11||54.5kg||111|
Table Credit: Racing Australia.
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