Racing Victoria (RV) announced on Tuesday that three-time Group 1 winner Nature Strip tops the weights with 58kg in the $1.255m, Group 1 Seppelt Wines Newmarket Handicap (1200m) to be run at Flemington on Super Saturday, 7 March.
The five-year-old gelding, who has won the Darley Sprint Classic (1200m), Moir Stakes (1000m) and The Galaxy (1100m) at Group 1 level over the last 12 months, heads the list of 30 horses that remain in contention for Australia’s most famous sprint handicap first run in 1874.
Should trainer Chris Waller choose to accept the challenge, Nature Strip will aim to become just the fourth horse alongside Hay List (58.5kg, 2012), Black Caviar (58kg, 2011) and Shaftesbury Avenue (58kg, 1991) in the last 50 years to win the race with 58kg or more.
With multiple Group 1 winner Hey Doc withdrawn yesterday owing to injury concerns, the horse that defeated Nature Strip in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (1000m) last start at Flemington, Gytrash, is next in the weights with 56kg.
Brilliant three-year-old filly Loving Gaby, who finished third in the Lightning Stakes after claiming the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) against older horses earlier in the season, will carry 51.5kg.
She is one of 11 three-year-olds remaining among the entries along with the first three placegetters in the prized Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes – run over the same track and distance last spring - in Exceedance (53kg), Bivouac (53kg) and the filly Libertini (50kg).
Saturday’s Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) runner-up Zoutori and the James Cummings-trained Deprive share the third highest allotment with 54kg, while top Tasmanian galloper The Inevitable has been handed 53.5kg as he seeks to become just the second horse in a century to win upon resumption from a spell.
Final acceptances for the Seppelt Wines Newmarket Handicap will be taken at 9.30am (AEST) on Wednesday, 4 March with the fields to be released shortly thereafter.
Under the conditions of the race, there must be a minimum topweight of 57kg at final acceptances meaning the weights for all horses will be raised by a minimum of 1kg should Nature Strip not be among the final acceptors.
Nature Strip winning the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic at Flemington last November, picture Quentinjlang.com