I think Eduardo is the quickest horse early and leads here. Profiteer despite settling better in trials I think will fire out and be right there. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Nature Strip take a sit rather than get into a dogfight with Eduardo. Home Affairs has plenty of early speed and might end up sharing the lead out wider. The Astrologist isn’t quick enough to lead, not sure if he’ll be able to tuck in for cover from the inside, followed by Gytrash and Swats That midfield with The Inferno and Masked Crusader out the back.
- Nature Strip
Superstar sprinter who is coming off his best preparation yet, winning the Everest and the VRC Sprint. He’s got a phenomenal record down the straight with 6 wins from 8 starts, the only top 3 miss coming in this race two years ago as a short favourite. He atoned for that last year with Kah on board, but there’s no doubt this year’s race is much stronger. 1000/1100 against Eduardo has been his undoing lately, beaten by him in the Challenge and the Shorts, however both were by very narrow margins. What is in his favour is the straight track, which Eduardo is a query on. His jumpout down the straight was outstanding and I think he’s the one to beat. If Kah can avoid getting into a dogfight with Eduardo and keep a good rhythm, he’ll rip off a big last 400m.
As mentioned above, his best form is all at 1000m or 1100m and he does have the wood over Nature Strip there, however it’s by small margins. He’s trialled very well as you’d expect, however the straight is a bit of a query. He’s had three attempts and the only credible effort was 2nd in a Gilgai. His failures were when he was off the boil and obviously he’s a much better horse now, but I still would prefer him around a bend where he can eyeball Nature Strip, which may be harder at Flemington. Huge chance regardless.
- Masked Crusader
Very exciting sprinter who proved himself top shelf last prep, winning from last first up at Caulfield before eventually running 2nd in the Everest behind Nature Strip despite missing the start, and that’s the query. If he’s slowly away again, he’s going to be giving these leaders a big head start over 1000m which is short of his best. I’m not sure he can give them 5-6L at the halfway mark and be able to reel off a last 400m big enough. If this were 1200m down the straight I’d be very intrigued.
Bit of a giant killer and he has beaten Nature Strip first up in the past, once in this race. I’m just not sure how he’s going- his last two runs were poor and he hasn’t jumped out very well. His run first up last prep in the Shorts was very good when held up and he arguably beats Eduardo with clear air. He should be able to suck in behind Eduardo and his best 1000m form is well up to winning this.
- The Inferno
Potentially the one outside of the big guns that could cause an upset. He’s got a big finish on him and showed it in the Mcewen beating Portland Sky before a big run in the Moir behind Wild Ruler. That form isn’t quite up to this- Nature Strip barely got out of 2nd gear to beat Wild Ruler last prep, but a fast run 1000m down the straight does look a nice recipe for him. I don’t think he quite has the class to win, and was well held in the Everest, but it wouldn’t shock to see him get into a placing.
- The Astrologist
Very good straight track horse, however 1000m isn’t his go, and this is too hard for him. He’s a borderline group 2 horse at best and this is the elite group 1, can’t see him figuring.
- Swats That
Ran well in this race last year behind Nature Strip, only beaten 1.75L but her form tailed off a bit after that. She does like the straight, again finishing 2nd to NS in the VRC Sprint before a spell, and 1000m probably suits her better than 1200m but if she couldn’t beat Nature Strip last year and now through in the rest of the big boys, she’s up against it.
- Home Affairs
Gun colt up against the older horses here. His Coolmore win before a spell was outstanding in fast time, actually a fraction of a second faster than Nature Strip’s VRC Sprint a week later, and he’s trialled very well coming into this. Jmac rides him but I wouldn’t read into that- he just needs to keep his association with Coolmore and I think he’d choose NS if there were no strings attached. From the wide gate I can see Jmac keeping him out of trouble, perhaps just half a length off Eduardo, but he’s also never seen 1000m and this will be a great test. The Newmarket looks his race, prepared to risk him here.
He’s always promised to take that next step but has been a bit disappointing since his 2yo days. His first up run last prep in the Moir, whilst he had to work a bit, I thought was just fair although he does love the straight having beaten Enthaar before a spell. He’s also trialled very well leading into this, interestingly when ridden a bit colder and taught to settle. Not sure what’ll happen when the gates open and whether he will be able to take a sit without over racing, but if he gets into a speed battle with Eduardo I can’t see him coming out on top. Looks under the odds at single figures.
There are a couple of knocks but I just keep coming back to Nature Strip, which won’t shock anyone. I don’t think he’s the best 1000m horse in the race but he’s less than half a length inferior to Eduardo who is the best, and I think the straight track can reverse that margin. I know Eduardo was in the wilderness when he ran down the straight, but Nature Strip loves it and is going as well as ever. Gytrash at his best wouldn’t shock at all, just not sure where he’s at, and The Inferno might be the best exotics roughie with Masked Crusader flying late. I love Home Affairs but 1000m against these will test him. Backing Nature Strip, saving/chopping Eduardo.
Tip: (1) Nature Strip- $2.70 at Bet365
Saver: (2)Eduardo- $4.40 at Bet365
Betting Strategy: 2.75 units WIN Nature Strip, 0.75 units WIN Eduardo