The Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Cox...
Chris Waller’s reigning Australian Champion Racecourse of the Year, Nature Strip, again proved his superstar status with a dominant win fresh in the 2022 The Shorts ahead of his highly-anticipated $15 million The Everest title defence.
The evergreen eight-year-old returned from his successful UK stint when winning Royal Ascot’s Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes (1006m) by 4.5 lengths back in June.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Nature Strip took his earnings up over $19 million in prize money thanks to his Group 2 $1 million The Shorts (1100m) triumph at Randwick.
“I didn’t know what to expect, to tell you the truth,” Waller told Sky Thoroughbred Central after the race.
“We didn’t expect him to be this good. I expected there’d be a bit of down time required and his coat might change, it’s a big thing (to go to the UK).
“It just worked out well, he was there for basically 28 days, he got the job done there. He came back and did his quarantine in a cool, wet, Melbourne climate and then came up here and it’s just a little bit warmer and he looks a picture of health.
“He’s heading the right way for (The Everest in) four weeks’ time.”
Nature Strip was only fair away with last year’s winner Eduardo first into stride, but Nature Strip slowly improved on the inside.
Looking to go back-to-back, Host nine-year-old Eduardo was in the lead with the progressive Bjorn Baker-trained four-year-old Overpass second on his outside.
Nature Strip began to rail through as the pointy end of the race approached, stalking Eduardo who was out to a great lead on the straight.
Over the closing stages it was all Nature Strip ($2.40F) who moved up, took the lead and won easily looking on target to climb The Everest once again.
“Today he displayed that he’s got ringcraft now, to just switch off and do those little things right, and help him be better,” Waller said of his ace sprinter.
“He’s doing it the right way. He’s not breaking his own heart. He used to break other horses’ heart’s, sometimes his own.
“It’s a good first-up run, he’ll take good improvement from it and be there in four weeks’ time.”
Nature Strip was ridden by the in-form James McDonald who was straight off celebrating his 67th career Group 1 aboard Godolphin’s young hero Anamoe in the Group 1 $1 million George Main Stakes (1600m).
“Get him (Nature Strip) ready for a Cox Plate, what do you reckon (with) the way he settled!” the jockey said.
“Today was a nice day for him to do that. He was ok into speed – as good as he normally is anyway.
“I thought ‘I won’ move a muscle and see what actually unfolds. There’s no real pressure on us to hold a position’.
“I just let him glide through and he did it beautifully.
“First half was great and at the 500 (metre mark) where he normally chimes into his races, he thought time was ‘go’, but as soon as I came back a little bit, oh boy, he came back and then it was just a matter of gliding up the running.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve. I think there is a little more to give but in saying that he was at his top.
“He’s the pick of the yard because he wanders around. He did that at Ascot as well. Everyone was in awe of him the way he strutted around the parade ring and I think that was his best performance in his career and I dare to say that he hasn’t gone backwards.”
In an eye-catching second, Vancouver entire Overpass ($15) looks capable of securing a slot in The Everest field after performing at the top level and fighting hard.
“Huge first up run. He has a bit of improvement to come. 1200m around here will be perfect for him,” jockey Rachel King said after jumping off the runner-up.
Also good in the placings first-up was the John O’Shea-trained Lost And Running ($10) who got back and charged to the line well ahead of another Everest in a performance jockey Hugh Bowman described as “outstanding”.
Lost And Running ran fourth in last year’s The Everest before a $1 million Classique Legend Stakes (1300m) second and win in Newcastle’s $1 million The Hunter (1300m).
The six-year-old is a confirmed The Everest contender for the TAB this year and is into $9 second favouritism in the updated markets at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Nature Strip was runner-up second-up in last year’s The Shorts results behind the Joe Pride-trained Eduardo, who held for fourth this year, before going on to win the world’s richest turf race at his third attempt.
The $15 million The Everest (1200m) back at the track on October 15 is confirmed as the next-up assignment for Nature Strip who will be kept fresh until then.
Updated The Everest 2022 odds online at Ladbrokes.com.au have Nature Strip at a short $2.20 to join the inaugural champion Redzel (2017, 2018) as the only other dual winner of the event.
Click here for the latest all-in The Everest betting markets.
2022 The Shorts Results & Finishing Order
|1||1||NATURE STRIP||Chris Waller||James McDonald||2||58kg||$2.40F|
|2||7||OVERPASS||Bjorn Baker||Ms Rachel King||1.35L||11||57kg||$15|
|3||8||LOST AND RUNNING (NZ)||John O’Shea||Hugh Bowman||1.39L||6||56kg||$10|
|4||2||EDUARDO||Joseph Pride||Brenton Avdulla||1.65L||8||58kg||$3.50|
|5||4||MAZU||Peter & Paul Snowden||Sam Clipperton||2.39L||4||58kg||$8.50|
|6||3||MASKED CRUSADER||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||William Pike||3.11L||12||58kg||$26|
|7||9||ATHELRIC||James Cummings||Tommy Berry||3.76L||3||55kg||$41|
|8||13||ANETHOLE||Cody Morgan||Tom Sherry||4.67L||10||55kg||$201|
|9||12||ROCKETING BY||David Pfieffer||Tim Clark||5.43L||9||55kg||$151|
|10||10||ANDERMATT||James Cummings||Jason Collett||6.52L||13||55kg||$21|
|11||11||HANDLE THE TRUTH||Keith Dryden||Tyler Schiller (a)||6.83L||5||55kg||$101|
|12||5||SHELBY SIXTYSIX||Danny Williams||Robbie Dolan||7.13L||1||58kg||$101|
|13||6||CLASSIQUE LEGEND||Les Bridge||Kerrin McEvoy||8.08L||7||57kg||$20|
Table Credit: Racing Australia.
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