On The Watch

Nature Strip’s brilliant mid-race sectional times tested his opposition in impressive T J Smith Stakes victory

After James McDonald rated Nature Strip (Nicconi) through a steady first 200 metres, the outstanding sprinter then clocked brilliant sectional times that would have tested any opposition in taking out Saturday’s T J Smith Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) at Randwick.

Following some challenging moments, the leading combination of trainer Chris Waller and jockey James McDonald have hit upon a formula to bring out the best in Nature Strip and this fourth Group 1 victory was a perfect example.

Generally considered the fastest horse in the country, Nature Strip’s brilliance has proved hard to harness, with the gelding often going too fast too soon.

The speed machine now seems to have adapted a fresh approach and as long as McDonald can get him to relax through the earliest part of the race, Nature Strip can then produce mid-race fractions that have his opposition struggling to keep in touch.

After beginning well from his inside barrier (1) on Saturday, McDonald took his time before a now seemingly obedient Nature Strip drove through to retain the lead after clocking a moderate 13.30 for the first 200 metres.

He then ran along at a quick tempo from the 1000 metres, held a clear advantage on turning for home and he was not seriously threatened from that point on, scoring comfortably by two lengths in 1:11.18 for the 1200-metre journey.

But the feature of the performance was his sectionals from the 1000 metre point: 10.58, 11.12 (400m in 21.62), 11.60 (600m in 33.22) and 11.74 to give him an 800metre fraction of 44.96 (from the 1000m to the 200m) – exceptional on the Heavy 8 track.

Nature Strip defeated a field that included seven Group 1 winners with Santa Ana Lane (Lope De Vega) second, Redzel (Snitzel) third and Pierata (Pierro) fourth – some of the best sprinters in Australia.

In the Doncaster Mile (Gr 1, 1600m), a strong early pace played into the hands of the backmarkers with the $41 winner Nettoyer (Sebring) coming from last in the 20-runner field to claim victory, her first at Group 1 level.

The pace was set by Quackerjack (Not A Single Doubt) who led after some early pressure that saw the first 1000 metres run in 60.51 (12.10 200m rate), whilst the latter 600 metres by comparison was a moderate 37.14 (12.38 200m rate).

In addition, the mid-race pace was quite hectic (from the 1400m to the 400m) which resulted in that 1000metre section clocking 59.65 – those factors telling on runners closest to the pace, for example the leader Quackerjack who finished 18th.

The runner-up Star Of The Seas (Ocean Park) came from back in 16th place and the third-placed Brandenburg (Burgundy) made ground from eighth.

An examination of the pace in the Doncaster Mile also added merit to the performance of the favourite Melody Belle (Commands), who endured a wide trip under her equal top-weight of 57 kilograms before finishing (1.4 lengths) fourth.

Clocked from the 1400 metres, Melody Belle ran 22.96 (400m), 35.08 (600m), 47.35 (800m) and 59.72 for her 1000 metres (from the 1400m to the 400m).

In coming from last the winner Nettoyer produced the best closing sectionals of the race with her last 1000 metres in 60.05, last 800 metres in 47.92, last 600 metres in 35.75 with her final 400 metres in 23.66 – smart times on a Heavy 8 track, conditions she relishes.

The Inglis Sires (registered as ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes) (Gr 1, 1400m) for two-year-olds saw the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained colt King’s Legacy (Redoute’s Choice) produce a career-best performance in finishing on from last to score the win.

He was suited by a strong tempo set by the leaders and a patient ride by Hugh Bowman paid dividends with the colt’s stamina coming to the fore by overhauling Prague (Redoute’s Choice) to win by a half-length in a time of 1:26.46 on the Heavy 8 track.

That overall time, granted, is not eye-catching, but a review of the sectional times revealed that the leaders clocked a swift 1000 metres (from the 1200m to the 200m) in 59.83 – the final 200 metres slowing to 13.25.

King’s Legacy looks suited to further still while the times suggest that Prague staged a very good effort as he was forced to work from the outside barrier (12) and then travel outside the leader clocking a mid-race 1000 metres in 59.75 before failing by only a half-length.

Earlier in the day, the Team Hawkes-trained colt Doubtland (Not A Single Doubt) impressed on the watch in taking out the Kindergarten Stakes (Gr 3, 1100m) to remain unbeaten after two starts.

After settling back in sixth place, a strong pace brought out the best in Doubtland and he stamped his potential by racing away over the closing stages to win by four lengths in a time of 1:05.90 (11.98 200m rate), equivalent to 1:11.89 for 1200 metres.

A fast mid-race pace saw the leaders clock 22.53 (400m), 34.12 (600m) for a fast 45.79 for the 800 metres (from the 1000m to the 200m) on the Heavy 8 track.

In winning, Doubtland returned impressive closing sectionals in the conditions with his last 1000 metres in 57.44, last 800 metres in 46.07, last 600 metres in 34.67 with his final 400 metres in 23.28.