First Group 1 for Nature Strip in Galaxy

The Chris Waller trained Nature Strip under James McDonald earned his first Group 1 victory with a gutsy performance in the $700,000 the Ooh!Media Galaxy Stakes over 1100m at Rosehill on Saturday. Sprinting on the Heavy 8 track, the Nicconi gelding tired late after leading most of the way, but hung on to win from a fast finishing Pierata by a whisker.

Nature Strip and James McDonald holding off a fast finishing Pierata and Tommy Berry, photo

MacDonald placed Nature Strip on the rail early on and the gelding maintained his lead into the home straight, only coming under pressure as Pierata, under a driving ride by Tommy Berry, flew up the middle late. On the line a photofinish was required to separate the two, with the nod going to Nature Strip by a nose, with Easy Eddie in third a further 1.25 lengths back. The winning time was 1:05.56 with the final 600m in 35:70.

At the jump Andrew Adkins sent Baller forward from his wide draw, with Nature Strip and McDonald, Easy Eddie (Robbie Dolan) and Jungle Edge (James Winks) in pursuit. McDonald however wasted no time in sending Nature Strip forward into the lead, opting for the shortest route home, hard up against the rail. Kerrin McEvoy settled Redzel just off the pace, together with Jungle Edge and Winks, followed by Easy Eddie and Dolan. Pierata and Berry sat out wide, while Graff faded to last.

At the 400m Nature Strip was leading by two, with McEvoy hard at work on Redzel, as the gelding came under pressure. Nature Strip appeared full of running, but with 200m left to go, Pierata and Berry launched a blistering attack up the centre of the track, followed by Easy Eddie and Dolan in hot pursuit. With Nature Strip tiring in the closing stages it appeared as if Pierata would snatch victory on the line, but McDonald kept the gelding going to record his first Group 1 win.

“Full credit to the teams, where he’s come from and where he is now, everyone’s had a go at training him”’ said a delighted Waller.   “I'll probably get the accolade for winning the Group 1 with him but there’s been a lot of hard work go into him through the years so well done to all those trainers as well.

“Great work by James McDonald, he’s put a lot of time into the horse at home, on the training tracks and in his trials.

“He’s a lovely horse to train, we just have to get into his head on race day that the winning post is not at the 300m mark.

“From the wide draw and the wet track today there was a lot against us. He needed to be pretty tough and he was.”

“It’s been a great raceday. It’s one for the real special race days in the world, it’s a day for everyone to remember.”

James McDonald salutes on Nature Strip, photo

“The team has done an amazing job”, said McDonald.  “From the first time I sat on him he felt like a really good sprinter. Things don’t really go his way and he makes it hard for himself. He sprung the gates really well and I just sat on him like a quiet church mouse. I thought the give in the ground would be to his assistance and it was. 

 “I feel for Tommy because I have been in that position before and it is gut wrenching. You put your heart and soul into these Group Ones and to come up short, I thought it was a dead heat, it probably deserved to be one, but it was a great race and he’s done it the tough way and won. They all can’t win like Winx so I’ll take winning by a nose.” 

By Nicconi out of the Desert Sun (GB) mare Strikeline, Nature Strip recorded his first Group 1 victory and tenth victory overall from 15 starts, taking his earnings to $1,225,085 for owners Mr R A E Lyons, Mr P D Harrison, Mr P N Kean, Mr S W Hansen, Mr G L Smith, Mr J P Van Duuren, Mr P J Balderstone, Mr K C Garland, Mr D Mccluskey, Mr C A Bennett, Mr G D Dumesny, Mr F Giampaolo, Ms D J Mcshane, Mr D J Slocum, Mr T G Mchenry.

The Galaxy, photo finish picture ATC

What the beaten jockeys said

Tommy Berry (Pierata): “Hard to cop, he ran really well. I knew there was plenty of improvement there from his first up run, he showed that even on the way to the gates. Great training effort by Greg [Hickman] to start him up in trip and drop him back today, because it wasn’t the plan to run him. He’ll obviously go to the TJ now and I guess it is a plus for him that it doesn’t matter how wet it is, he’ll be hard to beat. 1200m will also suit him better as well.”

James Winks (Jungle Edge): “He was there at the furlong, then dropped out.”

Brenton Avdulla (Graff): “Disappointing, he just struggled through the middle part of the race on that ground, I thought he was back in business around the corner, but he didn’t finish off.”

Kathy O'Hara (Kaepernick): “He ran well, just wasn’t suited by the going.”

Tim Clark (Viridine): “Just found the ground too heavy.”

Corey Brown (I Am Excited): “She actually worked home well the last 100m, but just couldn’t pick her feet up the first part of the race.”

Craig Williams (Encryption): “He just keeps raising the bar every time this horse, he didn’t love the ground, but he tried very hard, he’s in top form.”

Robbie Dolan (Easy Eddie): “He ran terrific, a big step up in grade today, he proved a lot of people wrong, he’s not far off a Group 1.”

Jay Ford (Tribal Wisdom): “I don’t think he went that bad, he failed in the ground terribly, but he feels a million dollars. He’s been off the scene a long time, so I wouldn’t judge him too harshly on that.”

Andrew Adkins (Baller): “Huge effort for him to run fifth, probably not the ideal position for him outside the lead, but he bounced well, landed there and travelled nicely.”