The fate of Nature Strip’s Everest quest will be determined in the first few hundred meters of the race, according to his jockey Tim Clark.
The horse brings an X-factor to Saturday’s $14 million contest with opinion divided whether his raw speed can be harnessed to run out a strong 1200 metres.
Clark will be the man in the hot seat at Randwick and he says how the horse handles the first part of the race is crucial.
“It’s important for him to get the first half of the race right,” Clark said.
“If he gets the first half right, I think that will go a long way to helping him run out the 1200 metres strongly.”
Complicating the task is Nature Strip’s outside barrier.
Again, opinion is divided whether he has the natural pace to negate the draw or will be made to work early by runners kicking up on his inside.
Clark prefers to see it as a positive.
“I would much prefer to draw out there than too close,” Clark said.
“It gives him an opportunity to do his own thing and get away from everything and I think he will enjoy a bit of galloping room out there early in the race.”
Nature Strip was $26 with TAB Fixed odds on Friday with Santa Ana Lane and Arcadia Queen joint $4.60 favourites in what is regarded as clearly the deepest Everest field in the race’s short history.
Despite the long odds, Clark has no doubt the Galaxy and Moir Stakes winner has the ability to run his rivals off their feet, provided he can get the headstrong gelding into an early rhythm.
“He’s always had a high profile, my horse,” Clark said.
“It’s going to be another level again but he’s a two-time Group One winner so he’s a pretty good sprinter in his own right.
“He’s just got to do things right early in the race and give himself the opportunity to run out the 1200 metres strongly.
“I think if the first part of the race goes to plan, the second half will take care of itself.”