Eduardo goes back to back in Challenge Stakes

The Joe Pride-trained Eduardo has claimed consecutive Challenge Stakes wins. (Photo: Steve Hart)

The Joseph Pride-trained Eduardo made it back-to-back wins in the Challenge Stakes, leading all of the way in the 1000m dash, beating a fast-finishing Shelby Sixtysix, while Nature Strip disappointed back in third.

Just four horses went around in the Group 2 event, with Nature Strip ($1.70) and Eduardo ($2.20) dominating the betting, however there was nearly a boilover as last-start Highway winner Shelby Sixtysix surged into second at massive odds.

The winning trainer said that jockey Nash Rawiller wanted to ride Eduardo a bit faster compared to last year, and while it paid off, it nearly brought the dual Group 1 winner undone.

“Nash is a man of few words as everybody knows, but a few of the words that he did say, he said, ‘I want to go quicker today.’ I think that was what brought Nature Strip undone but it nearly brought him undone as well,” Pride said.

“There is a delicate balance there. I’m not going to criticise Nash because he gets it right so many times, but it was probably set up for something to come home then.

“But a gallant effort from my bloke and just great to get him to win another Group race this preparation. He’s a marvel.”

Rawiller said the track conditions played into the eight-year-old’s hands, while Nature Strip’s rider James McDonald said that “his (Nature Strip) wheels just spun in the ground”.

“He’s a ripper. If Nature Strip wasn’t around, he would be one of the best in the country. He is a real little bulldog. Today the horse was tactically brilliant, he took Nature Strip out of his comfort zone a bit,” Rawiller said.

“I think he loved today’s ground. I tried to ride the edge of where I feel it is the best.

“If anything, Nature Strip came where I thought it was a bit heavier. He goes as fast on a track like this as he does on a fast track. Although he gave me 110% the other day, I’ll be honest with you, the other bloke is just too good for him on it.”

Both Eduardo and Nature Strip will push on towards the T.J. Smith Stakes, where they are $4 and $3.50 respectively.

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