By Brad Gray
MOST LIKELY TO BE GO UNDEFEATED
Such are the expectations around this six-year-old over the spring, being the highest rated sprinter in the world, anything other than a spring picket fence would be disappointing. A winner of 14 of his 23 starts, Chris Waller has managed to get Nature Strip to harness his natural speed and when he bring his best he is untouchable. Nature Strip always trials well, being a high-cruising galloper, but his hit outs this time back look to have gone up another notch again. It's an ominous warning to his rivals.
KNOCKING ON THE GROUP ONE DOOR
This Joe Pride-trained mare has always teased to have Group One ability but at the final run of her autumn preparation, in the G1 All Aged Stakes, she proved that she does. The five-year-old rode a hot speed up set by White Moss front but stayed on bravely to finish third behind Tofane and Pierata. Exactly where Fasika fits into the spring sprinting landcape remains to be seen but Pride wants her in The TAB Everest, he’s made no secret of that. She’ll have to earn her way in, however.
SPLITTING THE THREE-YEAR-OLDS - COLTS
FARNAN / DOUBTLAND / PELTZER
North Pacific is the name on punters' lips having laid down the gauntlet before the likes of Farnan have even stepped out. The Golden Slipper winner got better every time we saw him in his two-year-old season culminating in a dominant Slipper display. His strength through the line there suggests he’ll relish the 1400m of the Golden Rose. His first barrier trial was a cracker. Then there's the untapped stablemate of North Pacific, Doubtland. We’ve only seen him twice but his Kindergarten win was just as impressive on the clock as it was to the eye. The unbeaten Peltzer could very well be the best of the lot though. Throw Rothfire and Mamaragan into the mix and it looks an exceptionally strong crop.
SPLITTING THE THREE-YEAR-OLDS - FILLIES
Can’t wait to see what Hungry Heart can do over the spring. Was running through the line in the Golden Slipper and instead of pushing on to the Sires and Champagne, Chris Waller tipped her straight out with an eye on the Darley Princess Series. The chestnut Frankel filly should come into her own come the G1 Flight Stakes over the mile. See You Soon put herself back on punter’s radars with an eye-catching trial and kicks off in Saturday's Silver Shadow Stakes, where she looks hard to beat.
SPRING SLEEPER YOU MAY HAVE NEVER HEARD OF
Wins at Nowra and Goulburn doesn’t scream carnival player but don’t go doubting the talent of this talented grey. Love Tap rattled off brilliant closing splits to win on debut before trouncing his rivals last start. Not sure where he pops up next, as he still only has a benchmark rating of 62, but expect the Freedman stable to plot a path towards the Gloaming Stakes with the G1 Spring Champion his grand final.
And a quick word on...
THE TAB EVEREST
Does Nature Strip already have two hoofs on the trophy? Probably. TAB Fixed odds rightly have him as the $3 favourite even two months out. That said, the three-year-olds are circling. Yes Yes Yes may have set the blueprint for futures runnings of the richest race on turf, with the young sprinters carrying 53kg against their older rivals. Wouldn't be surprised to see a significant portion of the field taken up by three-year-olds this year.
If you can’t hear the rumblings from across the ditch about Catalyst you haven’t been listening hard enough. Word is that the Kiwi is flying and his recent trial win looked to confirm as much. The Golden Eagle is the main goal but a first up run in The Shorts (1100m) gives Catalyst the chance to also prove worthy of an Everest slot. The winner of last year's Everest and Golden Eagle, Glen Boss has been booked to ride.
Not going to lie, not sure where to turn to in this race at the moment, but that's part the appeal of the $1.3m race for country-trained gallopers. Any of the final 14 runners will be in with a shout. You'd think the defending champion Handle The Truth will be given the chance to defend his title. Man Of Peace is in the form of his life while Front Page has his own picket fence to protect. You can't do much more than win four from four like Fender has.