2022 Challenge Stakes Field & Odds: Nature Strip Favourite to Atone

March 3, 2022

2022 Challenge Stakes Field & Odds: Nature Strip Favourite to Atone

Chris Waller’s champion sprinter Nature Strip is tipped to return to winning form and atone for his devastatingly first-up loss when he returns to Sydney for the Group 2 $500,000 Challenge Stakes (1000m) on Saturday.

Nature Strip (Photo: Ultimate Racing Photos) | Races.com.au

Super sprinter Nature Strip is tipped to atone for his first-up loss and win the 2022 Challenge Stakes back in Sydney on Saturday. Photo: Ultimate Racing Photos.

The reigning $15 million The Everest hero returned to racing in Flemington’s Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) but things went amiss right from the jump.

Tardy away, the $16.3 million earner got sandwiched between runners soon after and had no right to finish as closely as he did when beaten the barest of margins by his young stablemate Home Affairs in a photo-finish.

“Nature Strip has never been in that position before but he handled it well,” Nature Strip’s jockey James McDonald told News Corp this week.

“He had a good horse to chase down and just fell short. His run was every bit as good as the winner.”

This weekend the horse heads home to Randwick and will get conditions to suit racing on a likely Heavy (10) track second-up in a small eight-horse Challenge Stakes field.

McDonald is aboard again from gate seven, Nature Strip sitting top of the Challenge Stakes odds of $1.65 through Ladbrokes.com.au to go one better than his second to Eduardo last year when failing to defend his title from 2020.

Success will see Nature Strip move up into second position with $16,622,790 trailing only Australia’s best mare, four-time Cox Plate hero Winx ($26,451,175), in Australia’s all-time greatest prizemoney earners overtaking dual The Everest champion Redzel ($16,444,000).

The Joe Pride-trained defending Challenge Stakes winner, Eduardo, also returns chasing back-to-back wins in the short-distance feature for the first time since smart mare English (2016-17).

The evergreen eight-year-old Host gelding also resumed in the Black Caviar Lightning running third behind the Waller quinella.

“Eduardo probably got a bit lost down the straight at Flemington,” Pride said.

“But he is back to a track, distance and race where he has had success previously.

“The horse is in terrific order and I’m looking forward to matching up against Nature Strip.

“It was a great race between these two in the Challenge last year and it is shaping up to be another exciting contest.”

With strong second-up form and the notch in his belt over Nature Strip in the upset last year, the bookies are keeping Eduardo safe in Challenge Stakes betting at $2.40 as he faces his adversary for the ninth time and first since his third in The Everest.

The score stands at 5-3 in favour of Nature Strip, but Eduardo won’t lie down without a fight setting up for a sensational showdown on the rain-soaked Randwick track that is unlikely to see a repeat of the reigning champ’s course record time of 55.2 seconds last year.

“Here we go again with Nature Strip and Eduardo, it’s great for racing,” McDonald said.

“Nature Strip is in great form, he worked superbly there on Tuesday morning.

“He looks in great condition, he’s blossoming and certainly hasn’t gone backwards.”

The rest of the field can be found at $26 and above for an unlikely upset and includes a second Waller-trained runner in Exceed And Excel mare September Run ($26) drawn the rails first-up chasing her first win since the 2020 Coolmore Stud Stakes and Godolphin stalwart Trekking ($31) on her outside in barrier two also resuming for the autumn.

The 2022 Challenge Stakes is set to run as Randwick Race 5 at 2:40pm (AEDT) with the latest markets courtesy of Ladbrokes.com.au available in full here.

2022 Challenge Stakes Field & Barrier Draw

No Last 10 Horse Trainer Jockey Barrier Weight Probable Weight Penalty Hcp Rating
1 121x1211x2 NATURE STRIP Chris Waller James McDonald 7 58.5kg 121
2 1131x131x3 EDUARDO Joseph Pride Nash Rawiller 5 58.5kg 118
3 x554x3360x TREKKING James Cummings Kerrin McEvoy 2 58.5kg 113
4 0168x4147x SPLINTEX Mark Newnham Tom Sherry (a) 8 58.5kg 107
5 13x119x24x AHEAD START Danny Williams Jason Collett 3 58.5kg 66
6 2282602521 SHELBY SIXTYSIX Danny Williams Tim Clark 6 58.5kg 62
7 048x37664x SEPTEMBER RUN Chris Waller Tommy Berry 1 56.5kg 107
8 15x330x REMARQUE Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes William Pike 4 56kg 90

Table Credit: Racing Australia.

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