Master trainer Chris Waller will stick to what has worked best for superstar Nature Strip after his typically impressive performance to win a star-studded trial at Warwick Farm on Monday.
The world’s best sprinter finished the 824m barrier trial in a slick 49.34 seconds, with last year’s Golden Slipper winner, Fireburn, 1 ¼ lengths behind in second place.
Waller said his eight-year-old sensation would resume in the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m) at Flemington on February 18.
Nature Strip – with nine Group 1 wins to his name and a staggering career prizemoney haul of over $20 million – finished runner-up to now-retired stablemate Home Affairs in that race last year.
Monday’s nine-horse field included seven individual winners of 20 races at Group 1 level, and more than $50 million in prizemoney.
Nature Strip’s regular jockey, James McDonald, was unavailable as he was returning from Hong Kong after riding at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Kerrin McEvoy got the chance to be aboard the legendary sprinter and he did not let anyone down.
After the trial, Waller said he would stick to the program which worked so well for Nature Strip last year.
In 2022 he saluted in the TJ Smith Stakes, the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot and The Shorts.
Fellow Waller star Durston – winner of last year’s Caulfield Cup – finished Monday’s trial in seventh, four lengths behind Nature Strip.
On the weekend, Joe Pride commented that Private Eye looked in great shape.
Last year’s Everest runner-up and Nature Strip Stakes winner crossed the line in sixth spot.
Annabel Neasham said she was pleased with Zaaki’s performance, the reigning Group 1 Champions Stakes victor crossing the line in fourth place.
The four-time Group 1 winner was ridden by Brett Prebble, with regular rider Jamie Kah also coming back from Hong Kong.
“Zaaki trialled quite sharp,” Neasham told RSN927.
“Obviously it was a star-studded trial and there was a bit of a mixture of sprinters, middle-distance (horses) and stayers, but I thought his action was really good.
“He always does trial well, but Brett hadn’t sat on him before and he said he felt great, so I’m looking forward to this preparation with him.”
Zaaki travelled midfield in the trial that was led by Nature Strip, before working to the line under light riding.
He ended up two lengths behind Waller’s multiple Horse of the Year winner.
Zaaki’s performance gave Neasham confidence that he could be highly competitive in the $600,000 Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick on March 4.
That could be before a possible second-up attempt at the $5 million All-Star Mile (1600m), a race he won last year.
“We still haven’t fully decided what the campaign may be, but he’ll have another trial then he’ll be ready to go,” Neasham said.
Riodini finished third for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott.