Nature Strip short odds for Challenge Stakes at Randwick

It has taken several years, a tonne of perseverance and a team effort but at seven-years-old, Nature Strip is finally the complete package.

Trainer Chris Waller has declared The Everest winner’s luckless first-up second to stablemate Home Affairs in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes as arguably the gelding’s finest performance after he regathered himself following a slow start, settled, and then charged late to just miss.

The Nature Strip of old would have got a bee in his bonnet being back in the field but the fully mature version was able to adjust to the situation.

“It was close to his best run,” Waller said.

“The way he relaxed, the way he was strong on the line, it’s as good as I have ever seen from him.

“I’ve got a great team, they have just continued to work one per cents and that’s the key with him.”

Nature Strip is set for another clash with archrival Eduardo in the Challenge Stakes (1000m) at Randwick on Saturday and the heavy conditions will hold no fears for either sprinter, the pair both relishing rain-affected ground.

Waller says having top-class horses like Nature Strip and last Saturday’s Chipping Norton Stakes winner Verry Elleegant who handle all track conditions removes a lot of pressure as their programs don’t need to be determined by the weather.

“I’m lucky at the moment to have some good horses that cope with all track conditions because gee, it makes my job easier,” he said.

“He (Nature Strip) doesn’t worry about any track.”

Waller revealed he toyed with nominating Nature Strip for the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) on Saturday’s program because he felt the horse deserved to be racing at the elite level.

It is also the reason he has been keeping a Newmarket Handicap start in his back pocket, although he says the Group 2 Challenge Stakes is still his preferred second-up target for Australia’s champion sprinter.

Nature Strip was at $1.65 with TAB fixed odds on Thursday, ahead of Eduardo at $2.40.

The pair has a stranglehold on betting with Splintex and September Run next best at $21 apiece.

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