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Nature Strip to bypass Newmarket Hcp

Trainer Chris Waller has ruled out the Group One Newmarket Handicap for Nature Strip, whose next start will instead be in the Challenge Stakes at Randwick.

Multiple Group One-winning sprinter Nature Strip will not run in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington and instead will return to Sydney for his next start in the Group Two Challenge Stakes.

Nature Strip was allocated top weight of 128lbs for the Group One Newmarket (1200m) on March 7 when weights were released on Tuesday.

Trainer Chris Waller says Nature Strip came through his first-up fourth in the Lightning Stakes in excellent condition and galloped well at Flemington on Tuesday but connections had decided not to run him in the Newmarket and instead take him back to Sydney.

"The ownership group and I have been weighing up our options as to where he should have his next run," Waller said on Wednesday.

"There is obviously the option to run in the Group One Newmarket Handicap, where he would carry 128lbs, which will make things very tough for him, giving a lot of weight to some top-class horses, or alternatively he could go to the Group Two Challenge Stakes, which is run over 5 f at Randwick on March 7.

"It has not been an easy decision but we have now made a final call to bring him back to Sydney and prepare him for the Challenge Stakes.

"He has some big targets over the next four months which will, all going well, include a run in the TJ Smith during The Championships and also fulfil a lifetime goal of the owners to have a runner at Royal Ascot."

With Nature Strip bypassing the Newmarket, it means weights will have to be raised at least 2lbs at acceptance time because under the conditions of the race there must be a minimum top weight of 57kg.

Lightning Stakes winner Gytrash is next in the Newmarket weights with 56kg.


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