Nature Strip set to peak in $15m Everest

After an inconclusive lead-in, Nature Strip is still clinging to favouritism for the $15 million Everest, the world's richest horse race on turf.

NATURE STRIP winning the Tab T J Smith Stakes
NATURE STRIP winning the Tab T J Smith Stakes Picture: Bradley Photography

Australia's fastest horse is no longer an overwhelming favourite to win the world's richest race on turf but trainer Chris Waller is adamant the best of Nature Strip will be seen in the $15 million Everest.

In the space of two disappointing spring defeats, Nature Strip has gone from everybody's pick to win the sprint race at Randwick to a genuine query runner in the speed test.

It was enough for Waller to look outside his all-conquering stable for answers as to why one of the country's sharpest horses had lost his mojo.

The master trainer called in the vets and Waller is now certain the 2019-20 Australian horse of the year will be at peak fitness for the biggest race of the Sydney spring.

Nature Strip's shot at winning the Everest looked in tatters after a dismal lead-up run before a respiratory issue was revealed as the reason for the sprinter's off day in the Premiere Stakes.

It's since been back to business on the training track for Nature Strip, in the process restoring the unwavering confidence of Waller and jockey James Mcdonald .

"We have dealt with it a number of times but when it flares up it can be very hard to detect," Waller said of Nature Strip's ailment.

"After his last run, we detected some mucus down towards his lungs.

"Unless a horse is performing with 100 per cent lung capacity they are not going to perform at their best."

While Waller has never lost faith in the horse that has collected two Group One wins since finishing fourth to barn mate Yes Yes Yes in last year's Everest, bookmakers aren't so sure.

After dominating pre-post betting since his TJ Smith Stakes triumph during the Sydney autumn carnival, Nature Strip is an easing favourite.

Adelaide sprinter Gytrash comfortably beat him in the Group Three Concorde Stakes while he finished four lengths from Libertini in the Group Two Premiere Stakes to set off alarm bells in the Waller camp.

Classique Legend is challenging Nature Strip as race favourite with South Australian sprinter Gytrash the third pick in the race.

The trio have been constants in Everest discussions in a race that has changed complexion over the past fortnight as slot owners reassess their positions.

Waller even sold his own slot to Victorian stud Three Bridges Thoroughbreds, which installed its own mare Haut Brion Her as a runner.

Haut Brion Her is also trained by Waller but she will be one of the outsiders.

As will Dollar For Dollar, a last-minute inclusion to fill the slot held for so long by Golden Slipper winner Farnan.

In a surprise move, Dollar For Dollar earned a race week call-up as well as a comparison with the winner of the first two Everests from co-trainer Tony McEvoy .

"He's a similar style of horse to Redzel, he rolls forward and makes his own luck," McEvoy said.

"It worked twice for Redzel, we'd be happy if it worked just once for our boy."