Nature Strip, the world’s best sprinter and fan favourite, is racing for history when Sydney’s showpiece autumn racing carnival swings to Royal Randwick on Saturday with Day One of The Championships.
The iconic Derby-Doncaster meeting includes one of the most anticipated races in years, the $3 million Furphy TJ Smith Stakes (1200m), where Nature Strip is aiming for an unprecedented fourth successive win.
Trainer Chris Waller remains a believer in Nature Strip despite a last-start loss and the champion chestnut looked in great order during a dawn dash at Rosehill trackwork on Thursday morning.
“With a horse like Nature Strip, you know he is fast, you know he is good, we just need to make sure he is the same as he was 10 months ago when he beat the best in the northern hemisphere (Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot),’’ Waller said.
“He’s exactly where we need him to be for Saturday and I’m sure he has another couple of good runs in him. He’s moving very freely, he looks great and there are no problems with him.
“Interestingly, he also seems to find his best form each autumn – that’s what we are banking on.’’
Day One of The Championships features four Group 1 races with more than $11 million prizemoney up for grabs.
The $4 million The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) boasts an outstanding field with no fewer than 11 individual Group 1 winners including Mr Brightside, the $5 favourite with TAB Fixed Odds to become the 10th horse in history to win successive Doncaster Miles.
Sharp ‘N’ Smart, the tough New Zealand stayer, is early favourite at $2.80 to win the $2 million ATC Australian Derby (2400m) with Godolphin’s brilliant two-year-old colt Cylinder a dominant $2.10 favourite to win the $1 million Inglis Sires (1400m).
“Saturday is without doubt one of the best renewals of The Star Championships as we mark 10 years of this spectacular Sydney racing event,’’ Australian Turf Club representative James Ross said.
“Sydney racing is being showcased to the world and it is satisfying to see international participation grow in number and in quality, with horses trained by leading figures such as Yoshito Yahagi, Joseph O’Brien and William Haggas truly highlight the global event that the Sydney autumn carnival has become on the world stage.’’
Racing NSW’s chief operating officer Graeme Hinton summed it up best when he said: “The race program highlights that The Championships are the grand finals of Australian racing.’’
The Championships will continue at Royal Randwick on April 8 with Sydney’s richest autumn weight-for-age race, the $5 million Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) attracting worldwide interest as it features the clash between the James Cummings-trained champion Anamoe and English raider Dubai Honour.
Tickets for both days of The Championships, April 1 and April 8, are still available at theraces.com.au.
PNAU SET TO KEEP RANDWICK ROCKING
It won’t just be about the stars on the track on Saturday, with award-winning dance music group PNAU set to headline the off-track entertainment at The Star Championships.
The internationally acclaimed electronic trio will take the stage on Saturday afternoon for the entertainment portion of the carnival, the “After the Last” concert series.
The chart topping act, who have worked on remixes from the likes of international superstars Lizzo, Dua Lipa and Elton John, will perform a special 60-minute DJ set including all their famous hits.
Originally from Sydney, the group will perform their latest release “Hard Way”, produced in collaboration with American four-time platinum artist Khalid, for their home crowd.
This will be the second time the multi-ARIA winners are the headline music act this season, after performing on Longines Golden Slipper Day at Rosehill Gardens in March.
PNAU’s set will commence after the final race at around 6pm in the Theatre of the Horse, with racegoers able to enjoy the live performance while experiencing “stylish dining or savour culinary delights from Sydney’s finest street vendors.”
The Australian Turf Club are also opening their world-class WINX Stand so visitors can experience the day and performance with rooftop bar like views.
Racegoers dressed in black and white will be able to enter the Sydney Confidential Fashion Stakes.
Originally published as The Championships: Nature Strip strives for slice of history