End of an era beckons for two turf greats in Concorde Stakes

It has been one of the spellbinding rivalries of Australian racing, but will Nature Strip and Eduardo be going head-to-head for the final time in their Concorde Stakes showdown at Randwick?

Now nine and 10-years-old respectively, the top sprinters are in the twilight of their incredible careers, which have crossed paths 12 times over the past few seasons and included several epic battles.

Their longevity at the elite level harks back to another period when many of the best horses were geldings who turned up year after year.

“I grew up in an era watching races in the late 80s, early 90s, watching Shaftesbury Avenue, Super Impose, Vo Rogue, Rough Habit, all good, tough old geldings who you saw go head-to-head so many times,” Eduardo’s trainer Joe Pride said.

“From the perspective of someone who loves racing, they love that familiarity of watching those same horses.

“I think these two horses clashing again will get everybody interested and talking.”

Nature Strip has beaten Eduardo home in eight of their 12 clashes, but never over the Randwick 1000m course of Saturday’s Concorde Stakes.

The former’s trainer Chris Waller says any time his horse’s arch-rival is among the competition, he knows sparks will fly.

“I didn’t really want to see Eduardo in the ‘noms’ because they often take each other on and make it hard for each other,” Waller said.

“But we’ve got mutual respect. He’s been a great old horse.

“Nature Strip, he’s come back well. He’s showing us all the right signs at home to say he’s going to be competitive and we’re looking forward to the day.”

Nature Strip wasn’t at his best in two autumn runs so Waller pulled up stumps, gave him an extended break, and “started from scratch”.

Eduardo’s most recent campaign was mixed, kicking off with a brave and narrow second in the Challenge Stakes before disappointing in two subsequent performances.

Both Waller and Pride believe their charges still have a fire in the belly, but the trainers openly admit they won’t know until race day whether the veteran geldings can still produce their best under pressure.

“Like everybody else, we’re not sure if he’s still got it race day,” Waller said of Nature Strip.

“He wasn’t as effective in the autumn, but he wasn’t far off his best either.”

Pride has likewise been content with what he’s seen from Eduardo’s build-up and hopes the fact the horse has had a relatively light load of just 34 starts will help him continue performing into his 10-year-old season.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t be bringing him back to embarrass himself. I love him too much,” Pride said.

“The horse has trialled like he still means business.

“I can guarantee you he wants to do it, I can’t guarantee he can do it anymore because that’s race day pressure.

“But everything about him is as good as it’s been over the last few years and there’s no reason why he won’t be able to do it, particularly fresh over the short course.”

With the likelihood both horses follow different paths after Saturday, racing fans will be hoping Nature Strip and ‘Eddie’ can put on one last show.

About RS NewsWire

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