Nature Strip and Eduardo gear up for another epic fight in the TJ Smith Stakes

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Eduardo is looking to level with Nature Strip in the head-to-head rivalry in the TJ Smith Stakes on Saturday.

Nature Strip and Eduardo renew one of racing’s most intriguing rivalries when they meet in the $2.5 million Furphy TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) Group 1 at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

This is the tenth time the two sprinters have collided with Nature Strip, who has a 5-4 lead.

Eduardo got closer to his great rival in their head-to-head as he won the last start of the Challenge Stakes with Nature Strip third.

Their riveting duels have now spanned more than two years, but it is interesting to note that Eduardo has never beaten Nature Strip over the Randwick 1200m in three attempts.

They first met in 2020 on Everest where Nature Strip finished seventh and Eduardo finished eleventh after leading home.

Nature Strip then won the TJ Smith Stakes and The Everest last year, with Masked Crusader second in both races and Eduardo third.

Remarkably, the trio reunites and is a very real chance to run the trifecta again.

Nature Strip has already amassed $16.38 million in prize money and should move up to Redzel ($16.4 million) for the all-time second place behind Winx ($26.4 million) in the nation’s biggest prize-earners of all time .

Eduardo broke the $6 million prize pool when he won the Challenge Stakes, and a top 2 finish will propel him into the all-time top 20 rankings.

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Trainer Gerald Ryan believes Ellsberg’s on-speed racing pattern will work to his advantage in Group 1, $3 million Doncaster Mile (1600m).

“Ellsberg had a good preparation, he trained well and did everything right,” said Ryan.

“From the barrier (six) he will position himself with the leaders and be able to give himself every chance.

“The conditions will be very challenging and hopefully he won’t have any more problems.”

Ellsberg excels at heavy gong and heads to the Doncaster after winning the Liverpool City Cup before finishing second in the Ajax Stakes.

Ryan rated Just Folk, who ousted Ellsberg in the Ajax Stakes, and Golden Eagle winner I’m Thunderstruck as the horses to beat in the big race.

“The horse that Ellsberg beat last start, Just Folk, is a very good wet tracker and looked like he did well the other day,” said Ryan

“I’m Thunderstruck is staying with us and he’s looking fantastic.”

Ryan, who trains in partnership with Sterling Alexiou, also has Brosnan in Group 1 of the $1 million Inglis Sires (1400 million).

“I don’t know how Brosnan is in really tough terrain, but he continued to work to the line in the VRC Sires,” Ryan said.

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Racing NSW stewards and Australian Turf Club course officials conducted a course inspection of Randwick late on Friday and declared the course really tough but safe for racing on the first day of the championships.

“The course is definitely a tough 10 but when we ran it around 3pm there were winds of 70km/h and the surface was dry,” said Racing NSW Chief Steward Marc Van Gestel.

“The forecast has improved for Friday evening to Saturday and if this forecast is correct then we will have no problem racing on Saturday.”

The course proper at Randwick has seen nearly 200mm of rain in the past seven days, with the course being rated a heavy 10 with a 6.29 penetrometer. The rail was in the right position for the Doncaster Derby meeting.

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Godolphin’s Cascadian are attempting to join an elite group of multiple winners of the Doncaster Mile at Royal Randwick today.

Cascadian went up 3kg to 56kg in their Doncaster win of Icebath and Dalasan last year, with the trio all competing again in the big race.

If Cascadian can compete back-to-back at Doncaster he will be placed after Sacred Falls (2013-14), Sunline 1999, 2002), Pharaoh (1994-95), Super Impose (1990-91), Fine And Dandy (1961, 1963), Tudor Hill (1959-60), Slogan II (1956-57), Blue Legend (1946-47) and Mildura (1940-41).

Trainer James Cummings said Cascadian reached a peak weight of 56 kg. “He has a lot against him, but he deserves this opportunity,” Cummings said.

“It’s a big task and from this draw (18) it doesn’t get any easier with him standing far and high on the track.

“With these lightweight horses and this draw, he has a lot to overcome if he wants to get up and win the race.”

Cummings also confirmed Alegron and Character’s chances in the $2 million Bentley ATC Australian Derby (2400m).

“Alegron came back from Melbourne quite grumpy and I think that’s reflected in his runs in Melbourne,” Cummings said.

“We decided not to let the horse run between then and the (ATC) Derby so that with a little freshness in his legs he can rediscover some of his earlier form in his campaign.

“It came as no surprise that Character won the Tulloch (Stakes, Newcastle on Monday). He did as much as he had to do over the weekend so close to the Derby, but it was the run he needed to surpass him over the mile and a half.”

Cummings hasn’t ruled out Paulele making his presence felt in the star-studded $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes (1200 million).

“You can argue that he could scare these two top sprinters[Nature Strip and Eduardo],” Cummings said.

“Twelve months ago the track at Randwick was pretty tough and he got up and won the kindergarten (stakes) beautifully. Paulele was unstoppable that day and it was also a good race.

“It’s a tough race, the toughest sprint race you can find at Carnival, but I think we have a horse that runs well enough to warrant a shot at the title.”

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Trainer Kris Lees will saddle eight of the 16 starters in the final of the $500,000 Provincial-Midway Championships at Royal Randwick on April 9 with his gallops Confessed and French Marine, both confirmed in the field after competing in Newcastle on Thursday fought for third place in the wildcard.

There was initial confusion as Confessed and French Marine were beaten to death for the minor places behind Jason Coyle-trained Pipalli and another Lees-trained runner, Tawfiq Lass.

The rules stipulated that the top three finishers in each of the qualifiers and wildcard tournaments would start in the Provincial-Midway Championships Finals.

Racing NSW officials and stewards said that given the unique circumstances, both Confessed and French Marine had earned their places in next week’s final, bringing the field up to 16.

Lees also qualified Never Talk, Rustic Steel, Kinloch, Grande Rumore and Geo, as well as the wildcard trio of Tawfiq Lass, Confessed and French Marine.

At Randwick on Saturday, Lees has up-and-coming filly Mauricently in the Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) and Luncies is contesting the Chairman’s Quality (2600m).

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5 years ago

Chautauqua, the ‘Grey Flash’ of Team Hawkes’ stable, produced one of the most incredible finishing bursts ever seen at Royal Randwick as he last rolled over the Englishman near the line and a famous hat trick of wins in the TJ Smith accomplished missions. Trainer John O’Shea was setting up his third Doncaster Mile winner as It’s Somewhat Happy held off Clapper. Murray Baker coached the fourth of his five ATC Australian Derby winners as Jon Snow won the classic and Invader won the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes for Peter and Paul Snowden.

10 years ago

Gai Waterhouse’s winning mare, More Joyous, was superb, shouldering 57.5kg for a brave win at the Doncaster Mile as she defeated Shoot Out. Trained by David Payne, the Master Of Design caused a stir at the TJ Smith Stakes at odds of $31. Ethiopia achieved the only win of his career when he overtook the Polish Knight in the ATC Australian Derby. Golden Slipper winner Pierro was too strong for All Too Hard in a classic Sires showdown.

20 years ago

The mighty mare Sunline, a 1999 Doncaster Champion, returned in 2002 and scored a famous win. Sunline shouldered 58kg and held off the late climb of Shogun Lodge. Phoenix Park gave trainer Gai Waterhouse her first win in the race, named in honor of her late father, Tommy Smith. Waterhouse’s Carnegie Express wanted the triple crown but after gaining a big margin up the climb he was unable to stop Don Eduardo in the ATC Australian Derby. Victory Vein avenged their narrow Golden Slipper loss by winning the Sires.

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