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In the rain and with a bog like track that favoured the mudlarks Eduardo saw off late challenges from a small field to win his second Group 2 Challenge Stakes in two years for trainer Joe Pride on Saturday at Royal Randwick

Eduardo wins the Group 2 Challenge Stakes

Where there had been 8 runners originally down to run the Hyland Colours Challenge Stakes at  Randwick on Saturday, a host of late scratchings meant that only 4 horses would line up to tackle the Group 2 sprint feature at Racing NSW HQ.

The four remaining runners were headlined by another exciting edition of Chris Waller trained Nature Strip taking on Joe Pride trained Eduardo having recently seen Nature Strip defeating Eduardo up the Flemington straight but ultimately falling short to Home Affairs.

In the betting Eduardo ($2.30) and Nature Strip ($1.70) were clear leaders for the race with the other two remaining runners in Splintex ($21) and Shelby Sixtysix ($61) completely unfancied for the 1000m contest.

With a small field jumping, it would be Eduardo who naturally jumped to the front and took up a traditional front running role with Nature Strip sitting second and the two outsiders bringing up the rear.

Nothing really happened in the race as jockey Nash Rawillier sat comfortably on Eduardo who was allowed to dictate the pace in front. When the runners entered the home turned Eduardo continued to hold a two length lead on the heavy track.

At the 300m marker Eduardo continued to hold Nature Strip comfortably as they kicked clear of Shelby Sixtysix and Splintex.

With Eduardo still finding more and jockey James McDonald appearing to be going full tilt on Nature Strip the Joe Pride runner appeared to be home and hosed before Shelby Sixtysix, the $61 outsider of the field began to find another gear and started eating up the ground on the leaders.

In the final 50m Shelby Sixtysix flew past Nature Strip and incredibly nearly offed Eduardo who was desperately in need of the line to secure victory winning the contest by a head.

All eyes will now turn to the TJ Smith in the coming weeks as Nature Strip looks to replicate history and win the Group 1 for a third time like the great Chautauqua did before him. 

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