Nature Strip on song for Lightning
Nature Strip is on target to become the first horse since Black Caviar to defend the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) after impressing in a Flemington jumpout this morning.
The Chris Waller trainee was reunited with jockey Jamie Kah for the first time in 363 days and cruised to a comfortable success, eight days out from the $1 million feature.
Michael Moroney's Group 2 winner Poland impressed in second, with Nature Strip's Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes-winning stablemate Home Affairs not asked for an effort in third by rider James McDonald.
Another Black Caviar Lightning contender, Masked Crusader, had a quiet hit out in behind the placegetters, while the Listed Elms Handicap (1400m)-bound Mr Brightside closed off smartly ahead of his return at Flemington on Saturday 19 February.
Waller was trackside at Flemington to watch his two star sprinters go through their paces and left satisfied with their work.
"We don't put too much emphasis into winning these types of workouts but, naturally for Nature Strip, he was pretty comfortable at the front without being under any pressure," Waller told Racing.com's Edward Sadler.
"Home Affairs was just biding his time. We purposely kept them apart (in the jumpout) so that it didn't develop into a match race, as we didn't want either of them to do too much.
"I will talk to the riders but I think they went pretty well from what I saw."
While Nature Strip's dominant win in the Black Caviar Lightning last year is fresh in the mind, Waller believes that it was his defeat as a long odds-on favourite when fourth to Gytrash in 2020 that proved the making of the reigning Australian Horse of the Year.
"We found a couple of years ago in the Lightning that if you don't respect the 1000-metre distance, you'll come off second best," he said. "And we did, we were beaten fair and square. Last year, it was a more controlled gallop and likewise this year, we will be making sure we're strong at the end of the 1000 metres, not just the first half."
Nature Strip will aim to join Black Caviar and Schillaci as the only two horses to defend their title in the Black Caviar Lightning in the last 30 years, while Home Affairs will aim to become the first winner of the Coolmore Stud Stakes to add the Lightning since the three-year-old contest was moved to Derby Day in 2006.
For more information or to purchase tickets to watch Nature Strip race on Black Caviar Lightning Race Day, click here.
Image: Nature Strip with Jamie Kah (Credit: Racing Photos)