Nature trail to The Everest summit
BRILLIANT speedster Nature Strip is on trial for a slot in The Everest when he makes his Queensland debut in the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 (1200m) on Saturday.
Chris Waller and partners own one of the slots for the world's richest turf race, but the champion trainer said Nature Strip had to prove he was worthy of being the anointed one for that position.
"If he can win on Saturday he is a genuine Everest slot contender, because he would have put two Group 1s back to back," Waller said.
"That's appealing from my perspective, trying to prove to my people he could be good enough to take our spot.
"But he needs to be impressive. We won't just do it for the sake of doing it."
Dual Everest winner Redzel has run in the past two Doomben 10,000s, while the nation's No. 1-ranked sprinter Santa Ana Lane also ran at last year's carnival.
Local racing officials are keen to have the Queensland carnival cement its position as a launching pad and ideal platform for The Everest.
Nature Strip trialled in ear muffs at Randwick on April 26, and Waller intends to use them on race day in a bid to have the Galaxy winner see out 1200m.
"Since his (Galaxy) run we think he's settled better," Waller said.
"He didn't settle brilliantly in the trial, but they went pretty slow. In race conditions it will be a lot better."
Waller believes Doomben is an ideal circuit for Nature Strip and noted the four-year-old's ability to handle all track conditions was another factor in his favour.
"He's adaptable in all conditions which is perfect for Queensland," he said.
"The form around his race is very good.
"It was good to beat a horse like Pierata, who has come out and franked the form.
"I don't feel he has to lead. If he gets a draw we would love to take a sit. In the Galaxy he drew awkwardly (and had to be ridden accordingly)."
Godolphin have confirmed Osborne Bulls is on his way to Queensland after four straight Group 1 seconds this autumn, and he is second pick behind Nature Strip for the 10,000.
Trainer Garry Frazer said Sangster Classic winner Spright would stay in Adelaide for the Goodwood, but if she continued to thrive the Stradbroke and Tatt's Tiara were options for her in Queensland.
$3 Nature Strip
$4.20 Osborne Bulls
$8 Champagne Cuddles
$9 Home Of The Brave
$11 Trekking, Zoustyle (unlikely)
$13 Outback Barbie, Plague Stone
Meanwhile, Waller has resorted to changing the bedding in the stable box of talented colt Zousain in a bid to get his Queensland carnival hopes back on track.
Zousain was on the verge of being a $20 million colt in the spring but was edged out by Sunlight in the Coolmore Stud Stakes and has had trouble ever since.
He was below par in two Melbourne runs before returning to Sydney where he won two trials.
He has been scratched twice since, with minor health issues.
The latest was in Saturday's Gold Coast Guineas, throwing his winter campaign up in the air.
Waller intends to trial him in Sydney again this week and if all goes well, run in the Kingsford Smith Cup on May 25 and the Stradbroke two weeks later.
But Zousain's fragile health needs to stand up first.
"He has low immunity and gets a cough more than most," Waller said.
"He keeps spiking a minor temp. It's never been bad enough to spell, but just sets him back. I'm still clinging to hope he will race this winter."
Zousain now has cardboard bedding in his box in a bid to reduce the amount of dust he is exposed to.
"It would be great if he could get to the Kingsford Smith Cup and then Stradbroke," Waller said.
"If not, I would recommend to the owners he race on next season, as there's a lot of good options for him."
Zousain is a $15 chance in the Kingsford Smith Cup and at $10 in the Stradbroke with Ladbrokes.