NATURE STRIP DOMINATES IN STUNNING KING’S STAND STAKES TRIUMPH AT ROYAL ASCOT
June 15, 2022
Nature Strip – dynamic, dominant, brilliant, breathtaking.
There were not enough superlatives to describe Nature Strip’s virtuoso performance on racing’s biggest stage to prove he is the world’s best sprinter at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.
The Chris Waller-trained Nature Strip defeated an elite field to score a famous win in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes (a1000m) before a huge crowd of more than 75,000 racegoers who watched the Royal meeting in glorious English summer sunshine.
Champion Nature Strip, ridden by James McDonald, started 9/4 second favourite but absolutely blitzed his rival with a stunning speed display to score by more than four lengths.
Nature Strip’s win provided Waller, Australia’s leading trainer, with his breakthrough international win.
Waller had wanted to take Nature Strip to Royal Ascot in 2020 and again last year but was prevented from doing so due to the global pandemic.
In hindsight, Waller felt this was a “blessing in disguise” as Nature Strip has matured into a more complete racehorse this season and dominated his King’s Stand Stakes rivals.
“Nature Strip has just got better and better,’’ Waller said.
“He is learning about his racing, enjoying his racing, and that was the difference between the horse from his early days. He used to try and get things done in a hurry all the time.
“But then he realised he could sit off them and still beat his rivals. It’s has been a privilege to be a part of this horse.’’
There was a big betting plunge on American speedster Golden Pal who firmed into 7/4 favouritism but Nature Strip was always solid on the second line of betting.
But the expected “drag race” between Nature Strip and Golden Pal never eventuated. Nature Strip was in a race of his own.
“We didn’t dare dream of a win like that,’’ Waller said.
“There are so many things that can go wrong but his preparation has been faultless.
“He has come a long way, a 40-hour flight, coming out of a winter in Australia to a lovely Royal Ascot day and we were just hoping everything would go to plan.
“We are in awe of European racing and to finally bring a horse to Royal Ascot and showcase him on the world stage is a very proud moment.
“I know there were a lot of expectations back at home so hopefully we have made everyone proud.’’
There was certainly a significant Australian presence on track with national flags being waved proudly after the race.
Nature Strip is the first Australian-trained horse to win at Royal Ascot since the incomparable Black Caviar in 2012.
McDonald said Nature Strip was at his awesome best in his Royal Ascot romp.
“The way he quickened up the rise and the way he executed his gallop was scintillating,’’ McDonald said.
“It was an unbelievable feel coming up the race, he was airborne.’’
Nature Strip justified his world’s number one sprinter ranking and became the first winner of The Everest to subsequently be successful in a major overseas race.
Nature Strip’s Royal Ascot win capped a memorable 2021-22 racing seasons for Waller and McDonald.
Waller has trained his 11th Group 1 winners this season – and a total of 137 in his career – including The Everest and Melbourne Cup.
McDonald has ridden most of Waller’s big race winners this season and the King’s Stand Stakes was also the champion jockey’s 11th Group 1 of the season, and the 65th major of his career.
The trainer and jockey aren’t finished yet as they will combine with Home Affairs in the Group 1 Platinum Jubilee Stakes on Saturday.
Waller said the focus now will be getting Nature Strip back to Sydney to prepare for his defence of the $15 million The Everest title at Royal Randwick in October.
Nature Strip scored the 21st win of his 38-start career, his ninth at Group 1 level and took his earnings to more than $18 million, second only to Winx ($26.4 million) in the all-time rankings.
Waller’s super sprinter became the fifth Australian-trained King’s Stand Stakes winner after Choisir (2003), Takeover Target (2006), Miss Andretti (2007) and Scenic Blast (2009).
Nature Strip’s Royal Ascot win should ensure the chestnut secures a second Australian Horse of the Year title after he won the honour in 2019-20.
He won five of his eight starts including The Everest and Group 1 wins in the VRC Sprint Classic and TJ Smith Stakes.
Verry Elleegant, the defending champ, also had a great season with three wins from nine starts including Group 1 successes in the Melbourne Cup, George Main Stakes and Chipping Norton Stakes.
Hitotsu (Victoria Derby, Australian Guineas, Australian Derby) and Incentivise (Makybe Diva Stakes, Turnbull Stakes, Caulfield Cup) also won three times at Group 1 level and are in Horse of the Year contention.
By Ray Thomas (News Corp)
Originally published as Nature Strip dominates in stunning King’s Stand Stakes triumph at Royal Ascot.
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