Boom sprinter Nature Strip is the early favourite to claim his first Group One win in the Oakleigh Plate which has attracted 30 nominations.
Nature Strip dominated the Group Two Rubiton Stakes (1100m) over the Oakleigh Plate course and distance at Caulfield last Saturday week in the first start of his campaign and his first start for the Chris Waller stable.
The gelding was installed the $2.30 favourite on Monday in an all-in market for Saturday’s Oakleigh Plate and has been allocated 56.5kg.
Winner of nine of his 13 starts, Nature Strip has been successful twice at Group Two level but was unplaced in the Moir Stakes in his only attempt at Group One level last spring.
Group One winners Viddora, Shoals, Voodoo Lad and Written By have been nominated, with Voodoo Lad heading the weights with 58kg while mares Shoals and Viddora have 57kg.
Booker and Bons Away finished a close fourth and fifth respectively in a blanket finish to last year’s Oakleigh Plate and are entered for another crack, with Booker given 52kg and Bons Away 54kg.
Booker won a recent jump-out up the straight at Flemington which included Graff and Lean Mean Machine while Bons Away showed he was on target with a first-up win over Written By in the Listed W J Adams Stakes (1000m) at Caulfield on February 2.
“He was pretty impressive the other day and it was probably his best run,” Bons Away’s co-trainer Ciaron Maher said.
“He had an unlucky prep last spring. He placed in nearly every start without winning so the owners were rewarded the other day and I think he has trained on lovely.
“He has run really well in the Oakleigh Plate before, beaten half a length last year.
“I think he’s better this time around. He’s fresh and well and he’ll be hard to beat given the right run.”
The lightly raced Sarah Zschoke-trained gelding Eduardo, who won the Group Two Caulfield Sprint (1000m) at the end of his spring campaign last year, has 52kg and has won a Cranbourne barrier trial by eight lengths in the lead-up.
Along with Nature Strip, Waller has also nominated three-year-olds Zousain and Charge although they are both also entered for the Group Three Zeditave Stakes (1200m) against their own age.