Stars edge closer to Lightning return
Star sprinters Bivouac and Nature Strip have tuned up for their highly-anticipated clash in the Group One Lightning Stakes with impressive barrier trials at Rosehill.
The pair lined up in the opening 900m heat on Tuesday with Nature Strip landing midfield on jumping before mustering speed and striding up to join the leaders.
He was keen to get on with the job but was kept under a hold by jockey James McDonald to win by a length over Bivouac, who tucked in behind the leading group and stretched out nicely late.
Dame Giselle raced on the speed throughout to finish third, with Chris Waller-trained stablemates September Run and Funstar given quiet trials behind them.
Nature Strip and September Run will head to Melbourne later this week to prepare for what is shaping as a heady edition of the Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington on February 13.
September Run is unbeaten at the track, her crowning glory a Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes win down the straight in October.
James Cummings has also earmarked the Lightning as the first-up target for Bivouac, who looks to be the new star on the block after demolishing a Group One field that included Nature Strip to win the VRC Classic in the spring.
Samadoubt made his first public appearance since the 2019 Craven Plate in the second 900m trial and showed his rivals a clean pair of heels.
The Group One Winx Stakes winner, who has been sidelined for a year by a tendon injury, bowled along under his own steam to lead throughout for Tim Clark.
Trainer Bjorn Baker said the seven-year-old had undergone a long and gradual build up and would trial again before resuming in the Group One Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick on March 6.
“I was just thrilled to see he has still got the zest for racing,” Baker said.
“He didn’t run a great time but it was just the trial we wanted first up.
“We will probably look for another trial and he will head towards the Canterbury Stakes into the George Ryder, all going well, but at this stage he is very much a day-to-day proposition so we’re not getting carried away.”
Outstanding mare Verry Elleegant wasn’t asked to do much back in the field with Golden Eagle winner Colette also given a quiet hitout.