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It would appear Nature Strip has a stranglehold on the $1.2 million first prize cheque in the Darley Sprint Classic, but the trainers of Bella Nipotina are not conceding so easily.

The Group 1 Darley Sprint Classic (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday sees Nature Strip as the $1.33 favourite to collect the $1.2 million first prize and take his prize money earnings beyond $16 million.

Bella Nipotina, trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, is the second elect at $9.50 and is coming off a narrow defeat in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) at The Valley on October 22.

Eustace said the stable had originally thought the campaign was over for Bella Nipotina after that run, but after spending time at Fulmen Park on their water walker, the mare has freshened up for an assault on Saturday’s race.

“Obviously, the favourite is going to be hard to beat, but it’s the old adage, ‘never be afraid of one horse’,” Eustace said.

“He can run indifferently at times, so you never know. She’s been incredibly brave, and it was a massive run the other night.

“We did consider putting her out after that, but she came through the race so well.

“We sent her to Fulmen Park and the water walker, and they rang Ciaron and said she was absolutely bucking her brands off, so we had to run her again if there was an option.

“And there is that option and it’s another Group 1 which is a good option for a mare.

“She’s very well and we wouldn’t be running her if we weren’t 100 per cent happy with her.”

Bella Nipotina only has three wins to her credit from 23 starts with a further 12 placings and has a second, third and a fourth to her credit on the straight course at Flemington.

That was before she joined Maher and Eustace.

“Her form up the straight is good and she’s probably a bit more mature now and that little bit better through that maturity, so she’ll give it a crack,” Eustace said.

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