The shorts take the form of a mini-Everest with the best sprinters in training to be encountered at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
The Nature Strip, the world’s highest rated sprinter and the ingenious Masked Crusader could be surprise starters in a star-studded group of 2 $ 500,000 The Shorts (1100m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Hall of Fame coach Chris Waller said he is “very tempted” to start the Nature Strip with racing jockey James McDonald on standby for the ride.
Masked Crusader, which challenges the Nature Strip for Everest favoritism, has also been nominated by Team Hawkes for The Shorts.
This creates a compelling sprint between Nature Strip, Masked Crusader and the like Eduardo, Gytrash, Lost And Running and Rothfire, all certain starters in the $ 15 million The TAB Everest (1200m) at Royal Randwick on 16 October.
Nature Strip is preparing for his third The Everest assault, but he has not previously had a run in The Shorts, so this may be a slight departure from Waller’s usual spring run program for the super sprinter.
“I’m very tempted to run him in The Shorts,” Waller told The Daily Telegraph.
If we run (this Saturday), it would mean he would go straight to The Everest. I always like to be one step ahead and I do not like to play catch-up.
“So if we were to run in The Shorts, then the Nature Strip is exactly where he’s going towards The Everest.
“If we do not run in The Shorts, then he will try before the Premiere Stakes (October 2).”
Nature Strip is among 12 entries for The Shorts and has been installed as the $ 3 favorite in early TAB Fixed Odds bets.
Masked Crusader pushes at $ 3.50 and then Lost And Running and Rothfire at $ 5 with Eduardo rated at a $ 6 chance.
John Hawkes, also a Hall of Fame coach, confirmed that Masked Crusader is back at their Rosehill stables after a dynamic first-time win at The Heath Stakes at Caulfield last month.
“At this point, Masked Crusader is definitely running in The Shorts,” Hawkes said. “He has come well through his first victory.”
As expected, defending Everest champion Classique Legend was not included among The Shorts posts with coach Les Bridge reaffirming the big gray will barrier attempt again before resuming in the Premiere Stakes.
Waller and McDonald’s are also teaming up with champion mare Verry Elleegant as she chases her ninth Group 1 race in the $ 1 million George Main Stakes (1600m) on Saturday.
There are 16 nominations for George Main, including Group 1 winners Cascadian, Kolding, Hungry Heart, Lion’s Roar, Mo’unga, Shout The Bar and Think It Over.
Verry Elleegant is early favorite at $ 2.30 ahead of last start Chelmsford Stakes wins Think It Over at $ 4.50 with Cascadian and Mo’unga at $ 6.
Meanwhile, Kolding has been awarded a top weight of 58 kg ahead of the unlikely starter Zaaki (57.5 kg) for Group 1 $ 1.5 million Epsom Handicap (1600 m) at Royal Randwick on 2 October.
Kolding is trying another Epsom victory after its triumph in 2019, while last year’s winner, Probabeel, is the highest weighted mare in the 56.5 kg race.
Think It Over weighs 57 kg, early Epsom favorite Mo’unga weighs 56.5 kg and Doncaster Mile winner Cascadian weighs 56 kg.
There are five three-year-olds in the Epsom nominations, and all have been awarded a minimum of 48 kg including Group 1 winners Captivant and Converge.
Originally released as Nature Strip and Masked Crusader in Star Sprint Showdown at The Shorts in Randwick