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Sky Racing’s resident newshound, ANDREW BENSLEY, brings you up to date after another action-packed weekend of racing around Australia.

PREPARING FOR THE ‘SHARK’ ATTACK

TE AKAU SHARK returned with a brilliant win on Saturday at Te Rapa in NZ, and despite some commentary that he didn’t beat much, his win was truly dominant.

The way ‘The Shark’ came from well off the pace to zoom past his rivals was impressive and trainer Jamie Richards continues to spruik the gelding’s ability.

I can’t wait to see him run in the TAB Chipping Norton Stakes at Randwick on Saturday February 29 - Check out the latest market here 

NO WINX, SO WHO IS THE BEST?

The question has to be posed going into the Autumn Carnival season, will Te Akau Shark be Australasia’s best racehorse come the end of April ?

Who are the other challengers? CASTELVECCHIO, KOLDING, EXCCEDANCE, FUNSTAR or LIBERTINI?

Exceedence winning the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington last October, picture Quentinjlang.com

WILL WALLER NEED HIS TOP HAT AND TAILS

This Saturday at Flemington, NATURE STRIP is set to take on a smallish field in the Black Caviar Lightning.

In a recent trial in Sydney, Nature Strip again showed that trainer Chris Waller has found the formula to get the horse to settle in front. It appears whoever jumps aboard Nature Strip is now able to slide forward at their own pace without the horse completely ‘over-doing’ it.

We know things can happen quickly in racing, just ask the YES YES YES team, but the ‘new’ Nature Strip could be successful at Royal Ascot.

Check out Nature Strip’s latest trial on the  Sky Racing website  or download the Sky Racing Active App.

OAKLEIGH PLATE SHAPING AS A CRACKER

With the small numbers in the Black Caviar Lightning on Saturday the question has to be asked where have all the sprinters gone or are they simply bypassing Nature Strip down the Flemington straight.

After ringing around many stables I suggest several have been saved for the Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield on Saturday week. ANAHEED, PIPPIE, BALL OF MUSCLE, and Michael Moroney’s mare TOFANE are possibles for the Caulfield sprint.

Check out the latest Oakleigh Plate TAB market

Nature Strip down the Flemington straight sprint course in the Group 1 VRC Classic, picture Quentinjlang.com

NO COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE RAIN

Despite the fact Saturday’s card at Warwick Farm was postponed, no-one was complaining at the Inglis Sales complex.

The arrival of constant and heavy rain was enjoyed by everyone up and down the Eastern seaboard. Popular Nyngan trainer Rodney Robb said they received around 60mm of rain on the weekend with the prospect of more this week. It’s the first rain for them in many months.

Remarkably, racing participants around the NSW mid north coast have gone from one extreme to another.They found themselves surrounded by the terrible recent bushfires and now over the past week the rain has produced flooding in the area.

Got to spare a thought for all.

COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS KICK OFF ON SATURDAY

Looking forward to being at Coffs Harbour on Friday morning for SKY SPORTS RADIO to preview the first Country Championships Qualifier on Saturday.

Trainers have been plotting paths to their respective qualifiers in a bid to make the lucrative final at Randwick on April 4.

Gary Kliese from Sky Racing expects Coffs Harbour to be a very competitive race with $150,000 on offer. Murwillumbah trainer Matt Dunn is likely to have six or seven runners but Gary predicts HELLENISM will be the one to beat. 

Trained by Aidan St Vincent at Coffs, Hellenism won a TAB Highway in her last start at Randwick and has been solely aimed at the Country Championships.

Click here for the latest Country Championships Final market.

ALLIGATOR BLOOD STEPPING OUT AT FLEMINGTON

Personally I can’t wait for Saturday’s CS Hayes at Flemington and the clash between ALLIGATOR BLOOD and kiwi star CATALYST.

We’ve all seen Catalyst demolish his rivals in New Zealand, but can he come to Australia and skittle the locals?

Trainer Clayton Chipperfield is very buoyant about Catalyst’s chances, but Alligator Blood has already shown he’s made progression from the Spring.

I’m not ruling out SOUL PATCH getting into some money in the CS Hayes either. Lightly raced Soul Patch won the Vase at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day before being placed in the Victoria Derby.

At the moment trainer Anthony Freedman is weighing up whether to run SUPER SETH on Saturday, with a start the week after in the Futurity Stakes becoming a strong possibility. 

Andrew Bensley can be heard on Sky Sports Radio, Tuesday to Friday mornings from 9am with all the breaking carnival news, plus Saturday mornings from 6.30am on Racing HQ. Stay in touch around the clock via social media @skyracing.au and @AndrewBensley

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