By Ray Hickson
Nature Strip is the first horse confirmed for the 2021 TAB Everest.
The dual TJ Smith Stakes winner will contest his third Everest under the Chris Waller Racing slot after an agreement was struck between the owners and the slot holder.
“Following his scintillating victory in the TJ Smith I felt it was an opportune time to be putting a deal forward to secure him for 2021,’’ Chris Waller said.
“He has shown me he has gone to another level this Autumn with a victory in the Group 1 Lightning Stakes, going down by a nostril in the Challenge in track record time and then blowing away his rivals last start at Randwick in the TJ Smith.”
The rising seven-year-old ran fourth in the 2019 Everest behind stablemate Yes Yes Yes, who raced in the Chris Waller Racing slot that year, as a $21 chance while last year he was sent out $7 and finished seventh behind Classique Legend.
It was a spring campaign that was plagued with issues, from his shock defeat in the Concorde Stakes at the hands of Gytrash to throwing James McDonald in a barrier trial and having to re-trial and reports of hay fever.
The autumn went much more to Waller’s liking with his Lightning Stakes win first-up and while he was beaten narrowly by Eduardo in the Challenge, in fast time, he once again branded himself as the benchmark sprinter in going back to back in the TJ.
The gelding heads all-in betting at $4.50 with TAB ahead of defending champ Classique Legend ($6) who is set to return from Hong Kong to Les Bridge’s Randwick stable in June.
After two failed attempts Rod Lyons, managing part owner of Nature Strip, is rapt to have plans in place early to aim the star sprinter at the nation’s richest race.
“We are ecstatic Chris’ slot has selected Nature Strip for the 2021 edition of The Everest,’’ Lyons said.
“We take an abundance of joy out of racing Nature Strip and being a part of Chris’s team, it was an apt decision to align with his slot for 2021 .
“Nature Strip has again showed us his capabilities as Australia’s best sprinter this Autumn, and we eagerly await The Everest in October.
Waller has pencilled in a barrier trial in the lead up to Nature Strip’s next start in the Doomben 10,000 on May 18 before he sets sail for the Everest at what will likely be his third run in the spring.
The 2021 TAB Everest (1200m) is scheduled to be run on October 16 at Royal Randwick.