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James McDonald may have to choose between Nature Strip and Home Affairs

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Super sprinters Nature Strip and Home Affairs are being set for a Lightning Stakes showdown.

IF you were James McDonald, which Chris Waller-trained speedster would you ride – Nature Strip or Home Affairs?

The Everest winner Nature Strip is the world’s premier sprinter and Home Affairs is the crack three-year-old chasing his stablemate’s No.1 ranking.

McDonald was the envy of his peers as he got to ride Nature Strip, Home Affairs and reigning Horse of the Year Verry Elleegant at a star-studded barrier trials session at Rosehill Gardens on Monday that boasted 12 individual Group 1 winners of 34 Group 1 races in the opening three trials.

But Sydney’s leading jockey is soon going to be in the very difficult position of having to choose between Nature Strip and Home Affairs with both likely to resume in the Group 1 $1 million Lightning Stakes (1000m) at Flemington on February 19.

Home Affairs will carry 55.5kg under the weight-for-age conditions of the Lightning, a weight McDonald can ride comfortably, but the jockey does have a longstanding and very successful association with Nature Strip, the defending Lightning Stakes champ.

If the two sprinters do clash in the Lightning, McDonald won’t have to make the decision on his own with Waller consulting the owners of both sprinters for their input before confirming his riders.

Interestingly, Jamie Kah rode Nature Strip to win the Lightning Stakes last year when McDonald was unable to travel interstate due to Covid restrictions.

Nature Strip raced on the speed in his 900m Rosehill trial and wasn’t extended as Group 1-winning sprinter Wild Ruler edged him out narrowly on the line with unbeaten filly Espiona – another McDonald autumn carnival ride – finishing well along the inside for a close third.

Top Ranked (fourth), Fangirl (fifth) and Mo’unga (eighth) also had the opportunity to stretch their legs in the Wild Ruler heat.

The Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Embracer led throughout to win his trial over 900m from Home Affairs, who wasn’t tested finishing second.

Classy three-year-olds Mallory (third), Four Moves Ahead (fourth) and Coastwatch (fifth) ran well while the Annabel Neasham-trained duo of Top Ranked (jockey Tommy Berry, sixth) and another likely McDonald carnival ride Zaaki (Brodie Loy, seventh) were given easy trials.

Originally published as Nature Strip and Home Affairs likely to clash in Lightning Stakes



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