By Ray Hickson
Has boom three-year-old Nature Strip done enough to earn a slot in The Everest?
It’s the question that has resulted in plenty of banter on social media since his high rating win in fast time at Flemington last weekend.
While the decision is ultimately up to one of the remaining six slot holders, the gelding’s part-owner Rod Lyons has already backed the horse to win the $13 million feature and is hoping for a phone call.
“Last year I watched the race and there’s no doubt it creates such an enormous amount of excitement, it’d be fantastic to be part of it,’’ Lyons said on Sky Sports Radio.
“If we got the opportunity we’d grab it with both hands.’’
Lyons confirmed none of the remaining slot holders have made any contact regarding Nature Strip but he’s spent a bit of time familiarising himself with how the slot concept works for if and when that happens.
Nature Strip clocked 1:02.26 for the straight 1100m, just 0.11 outside the track record and the run included sectional splits of 10.65 and 10.50 from the 600m.
NATURE STRIP ran a G1 WFA quality 108 WPR on Sat +2L on prev 104 peak. Whether he can repeat remains to be seen, but given the clock, big wgt, margins, ratings of others, it's impossible to rate him lower. Only Trapeze Artist 108.3 has a better sprinting performance this season.
— Daniel O'Sullivan (@TRBHorseRacing) June 25, 2018
The time caused some ratings experts to declare it was a Group 1 performance at the gelding’s first start for Darren Weir who already has Brave Smash confirmed in The Everest.
“It was hair on the back of the neck stuff,’’ Lyons said.
“Times don’t lie and he’s always had that ability.
“We even took a bit of the $26, we thought who knows. We’ve been thinking about it strongly and excitedly since Saturday.’’
Nature Strip, currently $18 with TAB in the All-in Everest market behind Trapeze Artist ($4.50), is due to have his next start in the Listed Creswick Series Final (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday week.
While he’s had eight starts for five wins and two seconds his only unplaced run came at his only attempt in stakes company and at 1200m having run fourth in the Group 2 Euclase Stakes in Adelaide on May 5.
— FlemingtonRacecourse (@FlemingtonVRC) June 23, 2018
Lyons expects that slot holders will probably want to see Nature Strip tick that 1200m box and get a stakes win on the board.
“As an owner you’re always thinking have we got a Melbourne Cup horse, have we got a Cox Plate horse, have we got a Doncaster horse?,’’ he said.
“You try and keep your feet on the ground because he has to come back and race again in better company.
“I guess if he can blitz them like he did last start over the 1200m, if I was a slot holder I’d be thinking this is the young sprinter on the way up and I’d be looking at him for sure.’’
English became the sixth horse confirmed for The Everest (1200m) run at Royal Randwick on October 13, joining Trapeze Artist, In Her Time, Redzel, Brave Smash and Shoals.