After one ride in a jump-out at Caulfield, Craig Williams believes there is a Group One win awaiting Nature Strip.
Williams expects Nature Strip to win Saturday’s 1100m-sprint and wouldn’t be surprised if the bar is raised to also include the Group One Goodwood at Morphettville later in May.
Melbourne’s leading jockey had his one and only sit on Nature Strip, the winner of four of his five starts, last week and was impressed with the three-year-old.
Nature Strip’s first four starts were for Robert Smerdon before Robert Hickmott had the gelding for his latest win at Flemington in January with John Sadler taking over the following month.
“He was really well managed by Robert through his first preparation and was well placed and quite dominant,” Williams said.
“My first sit was in a jump-out last week under the care of John Sadler.
“He gave me a great feel and it was good to get an understanding of him going into Saturday and on to Adelaide after that.
“He’s a good style of horse and that’s why I think he’d be capable of running in a Goodwood against the older horses.”
Williams knows what it takes to win the Goodwood scoring on Vega Magic last year.
He said Vega Magic was the benchmark.
“He’s a proven weight-for-age, hardened campaigner where Nature Strip is not there yet, but Saturday will answer a lot of questions,” Williams said.
Williams takes over from Ryan Maloney who has ridden Nature Strip in four of his five starts.
Maloney was suspended on Tuesday for four months after pleading guilty to using a banned stimulant.
“I feel for Ryan. It’s his horse,” Williams said.
“It’s only through his circumstance that I’ve been lucky enough to pick up the ride.
“Ryan’s a professional and he’s given me some insight into the horse that I might not have been able to grasp from the jump out last week.”