Premiere Stakes 2020: Nature Strip, Classique Legend square off in cracking entree to The Everest

Classique Legend and Nature Strip will clash in a preview for The Everest that promises to be a scene stealer on Epsom Day at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

Sydney’s two outstanding sprinters dominate the betting for the Group 2 $500,000 Premiere Stakes (1200m). Nature Strip is the $1.75 favourite ahead of Classique Legend at $3.10. The next in betting is at $12.

Classique Legend, trained by Les Bridge, was outstanding when resuming in The Shorts earlier this month, finishing strongly wide out to beat The Everest rivals Eduardo and Bivouac.

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Classique Legend is on track for The Everest after an impressive win in The Shorts. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Kerrin McEvoy, the rider of Classique Legend, conceded he would again be relying on the exciting grey’s powerful finish because Nature Strip is likely to be leading the field into the straight.

“Nature Strip runs fast sectionals, we know that, so this will be a nice test for us going into the grand final in two weeks,’’ McEvoy said. “But everything Classique Legend has done since his last-start win suggests he is ready to show up again.

“I thought the grey was unbelievable the other day and the good thing is he pulled up well and has felt great in his trackwork since.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back on him. This is like an Everest dress rehearsal.’’

The Premiere result could also reshape betting for the $15 million The TAB Everest (1200m) on October 17, when Nature Strip has been the long-time favourite at $3, while Classique Legend is on the ­second line at $5.

Hall of Fame jockey Glen Boss doesn’t have in ride in the Premiere Stakes but he will be an interested observer after picking up The Everest mount on Godolphin sprinter Bivouac earlier this week.

Nature Strip will aim to bounce back with a big run in the Premiere Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Boss has only ridden Bivouac once for a brilliant win in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap this year and believes he is on a winning chance in The Everest.

“I can’t wait to get back on Bivouac,’’ Boss said. “When he won the Newmarket, I don’t think there was a horse anywhere in the world that could have beaten him that day. He went through the roof.

“On the back of his first-up run he has returned in good fettle, It’s a good sign he is doing well that James (Cummings) and the team are happy to go straight to The Everest. They will have him ready to run out of his skin.

“If he can give me a similar ride in The Everest, as he did when he won the Newmarket, he is going to be hard to beat.’’


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Nature Strip should ­assume his usual controlling leader role in the Premiere Stakes.

At least this is the expectation of trainer Chris Waller despite the super sprinter’s stumbles at the start in ­successive barrier trials.

The chestnut’s jockey James McDonald was sensationally dumped at the start of a Kensington trial last week then the gelding slipped slightly when leaving the barriers at Rosehill last Monday.

But Waller isn’t overly concerned and ­expects to see speed ­machine Nature Strip doing what he does best in the ­Premiere Stakes.

Waller said he wasn’t ­concerned when Nature Strip was ridden back in the field after a slow getaway in his Rosehill trial.

Nature Strip dumped jockey James McDonald at the start in a recent barrier trial. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“Just in case there is any ‘kamikaze pilots’ out there on Saturday or on Everest Day, we want to prove we don’t have to lead,’’ Waller said. “But obviously that is his best weapon and if he doesn’t (lead) we are not going to be ‘suicidal’ to be up there.

“I still think it will take a pretty fast horse to head him off over 1200m.’’

Nature Strip is the $1.75 favourite with TAB Fixed Odds to return to winning form in the Premiere after being run down late by Gytrash in the Concorde Stakes a month ago.

There is no Gytrash in the Premiere field but Nature Strip does have to take on Classique Legend in Saturday’s feature sprint.

“This will be a good race,’’ Waller said.

“That’s the beauty of The Everest, it’s not just a one-race affair as the good sprinters are not afraid of lining up against each other in the lead-up races.

“In the sprint races, there is not much between them from first to last, unlike ­staying races.

“It’s a bit like Usain Bolt in the heats on the way to the Olympic finals. He wins those heats but he doesn’t always win by big margins so you are always looking forward to the next race.”

Nature Strip is a firm favourite to in the Premiere Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images


Has Standout become the forgotten sprinter? Will Libertini and Fasika recapture their best form? Can Deprive emerge from left field?

The Premiere Stakes could be renamed the “Last Chance Stakes” for the above quartet because they need to be competitive against superstar sprinters Nature Strip and Classique Legend to have any chance of securing one of the final two starting positions for the $15 million The TAB Everest.

Everest slot-holders have been busy this week. Four more sprinters have been selected for the big race on October 17 — Bivouac (slot-holder Godolphin), Santa Ana Lane (Coolmore), Trekking (Max Whitby and Neil Werrett) and Eduardo (miRunners) have all gained starts in the world’s richest turf face.

They join Nature Strip (slot-holders TAB), Classique Legend (Bon Ho), Gytrash (Inglis), Behemoth (The Star), Tofane (Yulong) and Farnan (Aquis) in the Everest field. This leaves slot-holders James Harron and Chris Waller Racing still to select their Everest starters.

Libertini has impressed at the trials but can she win over the remaining slot holders for a spot in The Everest? Picture: AAPSource:AAP

Standout, the flashy chestnut with the flaxen mane, won the Expressway Stakes in autumn and his first-up fifth to Classique Legend in The Shorts indicated he had returned in very good form this spring.

Libertini has been trialling brilliantly for her comeback race and she does boast a brilliant Randwick 1200m time of 1m 7.93s when winning the Silver Shadow Stakes first-up last spring.

Fasika did run a very good third to Tofane and Pierata in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes in April but needs to improve on her unplaced first-up effort in the Sheraco Stakes.

Deprive is a track and distance specialist who won the Sydney Stakes last year in a fast 1m 8.62s.


Champion jockey Nash Rawiller got to try on the new riding silks for dual Group 1 winner Behemoth ahead of the $15 million The TAB Everest later this month.

Rawiller made the choice to ride Behemoth earlier this week after The Star secured the Adelaide sprinter for its Everest slot. Behemoth, trained by David Jolly, usually races in the colours of black, old gold star and check sleeves but those silks now sport The Star’s logo, as shown in this image taken of Rawiller at Royal Randwick on Thursday.

“The Star is thrilled to reveal the silks,’’ said George Hughes, the chief marketing officer for The Star Entertainment Group. “With all the pieces of the puzzle now set, we’re looking forward to the world’s richest turf race and hopeful of securing a first win since becoming a foundation slot holder in 2017.’’

Nash Rawiller shows off the new riding silks for Behemoth in The Everest. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

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Santa Ana Lane’s inclusion in the Everest field was long overdue.

The Anthony and Sam Freedman-trained sprinter might now be an eight-year-old but his form last season showed he was still among the nation’s elite sprinters with second placings in The Everest and TJ Smith Stakes.

In fact, Santa Ana Lane boasts the two fastest Randwick 1200m times of any horse in training. He ran 1m 7.40s when second to the now retired Yes Yes Yes, who set a track record of 1m 7.32s winning The Everest last year. “Santa” has also run 1m 7.45s to win the Premiere Stakes in 2018.

Originally published asStrip leads the charge in Everest dress rehearsal

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