nature-stripNature Strip (Nicconi) proved himself as the fastest horse in Australia with  his  brilliant  win  in the Darley Sprint Classic (registered as VRC Sprint Classic) (Gr 1, 1200m) at Flemington on Saturday.

“He was airborne, floating across the ground,” jockey James McDonald said later. After featuring in this column on numerous occasions  for  his  efforts  on  the  clock,  Nature Strip showed the benefit of his time in the Chris Waller  stable  this  year  in  providing a career-highlight on Saturday.

Since joining the leading stable in February, Waller and regular rider  McDonald have    attempted to achieve the seemingly impossible in  getting  Nature  Strip to settle and  use  his  brilliant speed in a more effective way. And while he still  went  about  pursuing  his  front-running  role,  McDonald did  manage to get Nature Strip through a reasonably  docile first 200 metres before lifting the tempo to a very quick pace before dashing clear to win by three and a quarter lengths in a time of 1:09.23.

His sectionals (from the 1000m) demonstrated  Nature  Strip’s talent with a 200 metre   breakdown of: 10.65, 10.99 (400m in 21.64), 10.65 (600m in 32.63), 11.02 (800m  in  43.28) with his last 200 metres in 11.53 to a final 1000 metres in a fast 54.81.The Darley Sprint Classic was Nature Strip’s third Group 1 victory  –  all achieved in eight starts since being  trained  by  Waller  -  and his 12th win in 20 starts.

The  runner-up, the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained filly Loving Gaby (I Am Invincible), also impressed on the watch.  Winner of the Manikato Stakes (Gr  1, 1200m) at Moonee Valley on her previous start, the  talented three-year-old filly settled in sixth place, before going to second at the 300 metres and  then  fighting  on  gamely  under  her  51.5  kilograms (Nature Strip conceding her 7kg) for second.

Loving Gaby’s sectional  times were impressive, her 200 metre breakdown (from the 1000m) being: 10.79, 11.13 (400m in 21.92), 10.79 (600m  in  32.71), 10.77 (800m  in  43.48) and 11.49 for a final 100 metres in a fast 54.97.

Dual Group 1 winner In Her Time (Time Thief )was a length and a quarter away in third with multiple Group 1 winners Alizee (Sepoy) (5.9 lengths) fourth and Santa Ana Lane (Lope De Vega) fifth, beaten six lengths.

The L K S Mackinnon Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) saw the Aidan O’Brien-trained mare Magic Wand  (Galileo) produce a marvellous effort in backing up after finishing 10th in the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) to record a deserved Group 1 victory after six seconds at Group/Grade 1 level.

She was given a good ride by Ryan Moore, racing in third place before going to the front on passing the 200 metres mark and then fighting back to score  by  a  length  from  the  late-closing  New Zealand star Melody Belle (Commands) with Hartnell (Authorized) a short head away third in 2:01.82.

The  race  was  run  at  a  good  tempo  with  the  first  1400  metres  clocking 1:26.78 (12.39)with the final 600 metres in 35.05   (11.68 200m rate) with Magic Wand running home in a smart  34.83 for that final 600 metre section.

But the horse to really impress on the watch was Melody  Belle,  who  had  been  eased  from  her difficult barrier (15) by jockey Opie Bosson, and after settling back in third last place in the 16-runner field, she came with a strong late run when clear for an unlucky second.

Melody Belle returned the fastest closing sectional times of the race with her last 1400 metres  in  1:22.67, last 1200 metres in 1:10.67, last 1000 metres in 57.42, last 800 metres in 45.45, last  600  metres in 33.65, last 400 metres in 22.47 with her final 200 metres in 11.42.

Saturday’s Rosehill meeting featured the inaugural running of the $1 million Golden Gift (1100m)  for  two-year-olds, with a number of the juveniles impressing on the watch.

The winner was the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained filly Dame Giselle (I Am Invincible) who  was having her second race start, and after settling in fourth place tracking a  smart  pace, she  dashed clear in the straight to recor  a dominant three and three-quarter  length victory.

Time for the 1100 metre journey was 1:03.71 (11.58 200m rate), equivalent to 1200 metres in 1:09.50.

Dame Giselle returned fast closing sectionals: 55.60 (last 1000m), 44.59 (last 800m), 33.34 (last 600m) and 22.29 for her final 400 metres.

See You Soon (Siyouni), who made ground from the tail of the field for second, clocked: 55.43 (last 1000m), 44.43 (last 800m), 33.28 (last 600m) and 22.26 for her final 400 metres.

Blaze A Trail (Criterion), a stablemate of the winner, ran well for third on debut and clocked: 56.25 (last  1000m), 45.44 (last  800m), 33.28 (last 600m) with his final 400  metres  in  23.11.

Cellsabeel (Hinchinbrook), a Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained filly, came from last to finish (4.8 lengths) fourth on debut and clocked: 55.62 (last 1000m), 44.55 (last 800m), 33.27 (last 600m) and 22.24 for her final 400 metres.

All four staged very good performances, especially the winner Dame Giselle and the runner-up See You Soon, while Blaze A Trail and Cellsabeel are clearly talented, too – all four being juveniles with a promising future.

 

KEN BOWMAN

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