By Ray Hickson
If Nature Strip could talk trainer Chris Waller is convinced he’d be saying how much better he’s feeling than a year ago and that he’s ready to shake the life out of Saturday’s TAB Everest.
Like all champion trainers do, Waller learned the lessons from Nature Strip’s second failed Everest campaign and believes he won’t have a better chance to raise the trophy for the $15 million dash over 1200m.
Waller also has the only three-year-old, Home Affairs, in the Everest but after a seemingly smooth build up there’s public expectation around Nature Strip.
“We’ve done things very similar to last year but started a couple of weeks later. He was just in too early,’’ Waller said.
“I’m really happy with how his coat looks compared to how it was last year and I just think if they’re healthy on the inside they’ll look good on the outside and vice versa.
“Confidence levels for a horse trainer are never high but confidence in the horse is certainly at a high level. Simply because he’s a very good horse.”
The seven-year-old was the first horse selected for this year’s TAB Everest, filling the Chris Waller Racing slot, and he joined defending champion Classique Legend as $4.20 equal favourite with TAB on Thursday.
He had a virtual exhibition gallop when he took out the Concorde Stakes (1000m) first-up but was run down by Eduardo in the Group 2 The Shorts (1100m) a month ago.
Waller took that on board and after a jump out with Home Affairs last week he’s on target, he also feels barrier 10 is no disadvantage.
“His form is fantastic. Obviously he was edged out last start,’’ he said.
“He had a decent blow post race so we’ve tightened him up a little bit since then and I’m really happy with him going into Saturday’s race.
“He’s run ratings to put him among the top sprinters in the world consistently. There’s no reason to say he can’t maintain that.”
With two Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes wins over the Everest course to his name, and four more Group 1s, a win in Australia’s premier sprint race is the only thing missing from the Nature Strip CV.
Waller said if Nature Strip wins the Everest he would be a worthy champion, but if he doesn’t it won’t detract from his record.
In two attempts so far he’s finished fourth in 2019 and seventh in last year’s race.
“Nature Strip has done it all over a number of seasons now and if he could win an Everest it would back up those great wins he’s had,’’ he said.
“The Everest being the race it is, would certainly rate among the top. It brings a great field together each year and it will be a fitting result if he can win it.”
Glen Boss combines with Waller and Coolmore for the second time in a TAB Everest when he rides Home Affairs who will be having only his sixth race start.
Home Affairs (@boss_glen) and Nature Strip (@mcacajamez) hit the line together in a 900m jump out at Rosehill with nothing between them on the line. #TheEverest @tabcomau @7horseracing @CoolmoreAus @cwallerracing pic.twitter.com/LoIcdukird
— Racing NSW (@racing_nsw) October 6, 2021
The colt, Silver Slipper winner at two, easily accounted for Paulele when he resumed last month in the Listed Heritage Stakes (1100m) and Waller said he is a horse of the future.
“He deserves his place in the Everest. He did a good job as a two-year-old and physically he has strengthened up a lot at three which is a good sign,’’ he said.
“His first up run was nothing short of brilliant and he’s trained on well. He is coping well with the additional workload and we saw in his jump out last week (with Nature Strip) he is taking the necessary steps forward.”
Waller said Home Affairs, $10 with TAB, is ready for the 1200m and knows when Glen Boss, who won the 2019 Everest for Waller and Coolmore on Yes Yes Yes, is legged aboard he will give the colt every chance.
“Glen Boss always gives you confidence when you know you have him riding in a big race,’’ he said.
“His ability to read these big races gives the horses confidence and produces results, it puts him amongst the best in the world.”