By Ray Hickson
James Harron has ensured the TAB Everest is going to be a serious sprinting test with the decision to hand dual Group 1 winner Nature Strip his slot in the $14 million feature.
It’s the five-year-old’s on pace style that Harron said attracted the syndicate to head in Nature Strip’s direction.
Of course Harron won the inaugural TAB Everest partnering with Redzel and Nature Strip’s inclusion ensures there’ll be no loafing over the Randwick 1200m.
“He’s a last start Group 1 winner, he’s a tremendously fast horse and has a super record,’’ Harron said.
“He is an on speed runner in a race that looks like it lacks a bit of speed again this year. He handles good conditions but also soft to heavy conditions which is a plus for us.’’
Nature Strip is a $15 chance in the TAB Everest market.
Harron had waited patiently for the right time to make his move, he’d dissected all the available runners including last Saturday’s Premiere Stakes winner Brutal, and while acknowledging the strength of the race and the task facing the gelding he feels the syndicate will get a run for its money.
“Seeing his performance in the Moir and how well we’ve heard he’s come through it we just felt like he needed to have a place in the race,’’ he said.
“We’re very excited to be involved in it and we felt like we wanted a horse that had the pattern to go forward a bit and handle any track conditions. I think he will give us a great race.’’
A year ago Nature Strip’s owners were coming to terms with the disappointment of having a slot in the Everest, via the Australian Turf Club, only to lose it when the horse failed in the Moir Stakes of 2018.
The experience has been a little different this time around, as part owner Rod Lyons explained.
“It was frustrating, we’d almost given up hope of getting a slot so we’d planned a program down in Melbourne but we’re all excited now and let’s hope he puts his best foot forward,’’ he said.
“He’s bigger and stronger, he’s racing better, I think this year and hopefully next year and the year after he will only get better.’’
Under trainer Chris Waller’s care Nature Strip has won his two Group 1s, the Galaxy in the autumn and the Moir last month, but he’s still polarised opinion on whether he can run out a strong 1200m especially against the best of the best.
Lyons said they’ll be playing to Nature Strip’s strengths when the gates open on October 19.
“We the owners have to take the responsibility, we insisted we had to try and get him to settle and Chris was going along with what we wanted,’’ he said.
“You can’t grab hold of him, he chokes down and races too fiercely so we just has to bowl along wherever he’s comfortable.
“If he can run a couple of furlongs in the mid to low 11s he will run 1200m right out. If something goes mad and wants to take him on we are convinced as long as they are going quick enough he will settle.’’
With James McDonald set to partner Arcadia Queen in the TAB Everest, a rider will have to be secured for Nature Strip.