Stand in jockey Mark Zahra is hoping that odds on favourite Nature Strip gets a clean getaway from the barriers in the 2018 Group 2 $200,000 Mitty’s McEwen Stakes (1000m) at The Valley today.
Nature Strip was a little slow out of the starting gates last start and Damian Lane had to let the four year old get balanced before letting him stride to the front and then go on to record a six length win in the Listed $100,000 Lightning Stakes (1050m) at Morphettville on July 28.
Nature Strip has drawn barrier one in the eight horse McEwen Stakes field and Zahra is hoping that he doesn’t dwadle out of the barriers again and get cluttered up in behind the leaders.
“Probably the worst gate he could have drawn, I reckon for the race,” Zahra told RSN Racing Pulse.
“But apart from Adelaide he has been pretty good out. I think he is good enough and he should be able to overcome any little mishap.”
Zahra is replacing the suspended Damian Lane in the McEwen Stakes and will be having his first sit on Nature Strip when he is legged up before the race, but he is not too concerned.
“I have never been on him,” Zahra said.
“I have seen enough of him and I had a quick chat to Johnny Allen, he does a fair bit of his track work on him and I think I have a pretty good grasp of what he is like as much as I can without having ridden him.”
Nature Strip is undefeated from three race starts for the Darren Weir stable and has been installed the $1.40 favourite for the McEwen Stakes at Ladbrokes.com.au ahead of the Anthony Freedman trained Shoals at $5.50.
Shoals is a three times Group 1 winner and Zahra said that he has plenty of respect for the new season four year old mare but also has plenty of confidence in his mount.
“Shoals is a very good horse, you can’t discount her and with even luck and as long as he can step half clean then he should be too good for them,” Zahra said.
Weir is also slightly concerned that Nature Strip could step away slowly from the inside gate, but hopes if that does happen he will be able to relax in behind the pace.
“We’re hopeful (he will jump clean), but we’ve drawn (barrier) one and if he gets in behind, it could be tricky,” Weir told the Herald Sun.
“If relaxes behind them, it’ll be OK. If he steps away, it will be OK. But he gets in behind and starts charging, it could be tricky.”
Another winning performance by Nature Strip could see the four year old fill one of the remaining two slots for the $13m The Everest (1200m) at Randwick on October 13.