TJ Smith Stakes: Nature Strip in rematch with Eduardo for world’s best sprinter title

The world’s best sprinter title is up for grabs when Nature Strip and Eduardo clash in the Group 1 $2.5 million Heineken TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

In the latest Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings released on Friday, Nature Strip and Eduardo have both earned a 121 rating, the highest figure returned for a sprinter so far this year.

The only horses rated above the Australian sprinters are English champ Mishriff and American star Mystic Guide, both outstanding middle distance gallopers are who equal top on 122

Although the northern hemisphere flat season is only just beginning, a win by either Nature Strip or Eduardo – or any of the rivals for that matter – in a star-studded TJ Smith will almost certainly take them to the top of the world sprint rankings.

Nature Strip blitzed his rivals in last year’s TJ Smith Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Nature Strip held that lofty position after winning the TJ Smith Stakes brilliantly last year and trainer Chris Waller believes his enigmatic gelding is ready for a similar level of performance on Saturday.

“I would have to say Nature Strip is as well as we can have him,” Waller said.

“The four weeks between runs I guess is a bit questionable but this horse won the Lightning Stakes first-up and he has a good fresh record in general.

“Nature Strip is a hard horse to get right but once he is right, then he is a very good sprinter.

“Everyone knows how good our sprinters are and Nature Strip has been right up in the rankings for a couple of years now.”

Waller said the TJ Smith barrier draw which has Nature Strip coming out of five and Eduardo from eight is a “big advantage” for his sprinter.

Eduardo drew inside and held the rail when he clashed with Nature Strip in the Challenge Stakes earlier this autumn when the two outstanding sprinters smashing the Randwick 1000m record as Eduardo won narrowly in a thriller.

Nature Strip hasn’t started since that epic race but Eduardo confirmed his emergence as one of the sprinting elite when he shouldered 57kg and blew away his rivals in the Group 1 The Galaxy.

Eduardo backed up his Challenged Stakes win with another in The Galaxy. Picture: Grant GuySource:The Daily Telegraph

In latest TAB Fixed Odds betting, Nature Strip has firmed to $3.50 favouritism with Eduardo out to the third line of betting at $4.40. Godolphin’s Bivouac splits that duo at $4.

Waller also has September Run ($11) in the TJ Smith Stakes and said the filly has the ability to run a competitive race.

“If it was a straight race September Run would be right in the market,” Waller said.

“But her last start effort around Moonee Valley was very good, her fourth was, I thought, as good a run as the winner’s (Masked Crusader, Group 1 William Reid Stakes).

“The barrier draw does make it tough for her but she is going well.”

Waller is enjoying another hugely successful season, recording his 10th Group 1 win with Hungry Heart in the Vinery Stud Stakes last week.

The trainer’s runners have already earned $29.2 million prizemoney this season and could smash through the $30 million barrier this weekend.

Waller is also chasing a record-equalling seventh win in the Group 1 $3 million the Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) with either Star Of The Seas, Funstar and emergency Wheelhouse.

Star Of The Seas is attempting to avenge his narrow loss to Nettoyer in the Doncaster last year – his fourth Group 1 placing. He’s run second in the Winx Stakes and George Main Stakes, and third in the Epsom Handicap.

Chris Waller is chasing a seventh Doncaster Mile with Star Of The Seas among his chances. Picture: Grant GuySource:The Daily Telegraph

Waller admitted Star Of The Seas’s unplaced George Ryder Stakes effort last start disappointed him but the soft track conditions are in the gelding’s favour.

“I don’t know what to make of his run the other day, maybe he was just in the wrong part of the track,” Waller said.
“I sent him to the farm for two or three days to freshen him up and he has worked well since. I just hope he brings his best Randwick form to the race because from barrier nine he should get a perfect run.’”

Funstar is a Randwick Group 1 miler winner but the mare has been unplaced in three weight-for-age runs going into the Doncaster.

“She got interfered with last start sop it is hard gauge her run. Her previous two starts in the Apollo Stakes and Chipping Norton Stakes were very good,” Waller said.

“The tricky draw is a concern but she has run some good races from a wide barrier in Randwick miles.”

Waller felt Wheelhouse didn’t stay a strong 2000m in the Rosehill Guineas last start and believes the 1600m of the Doncaster is more to his liking. Wheelhouse is also entered for the Group 3 Carbine Club Stakes.

Originally published asWorld’s best title on line for speed machines

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