A breathtaking performance from Nature Strip in the Darley Sprint Classic has captured the powerful sprinter his third Group One win for the year.
The Chris Waller-trained Nature Strip made a one-act affair of Saturday’s $2 million weight-for-age race over the 1200m straight course at Flemington, leaving some established sprinters behind to score by 3-1/4-lengths.
With James McDonald aboard, Nature Strip cruised along comfortably in front and started to increase his lead in the final 600m, with his rivals unable to keep up.
Nature Strip ($3.60) defeated three-year-old filly and last-start Manikato Stakes winner Loving Gaby ($7.50) with In Her Time ($12) another 1-1/4-lengths away third.
The Darley Sprint Classic is the feature open-age sprint of the Melbourne Cup carnival and Nature Strip’s success added to his Group One wins in The Galaxy (1100m) at Rosehill in March and Moir Stakes (1000m) at The Valley in September.
“He’s now a winner of three Group One races and that was simply as good as it gets from a sprinters’ perspective,” Waller said.
It is the first time Nature Strip has won at the elite level over 1200m and he maintained a perfect record from four attempts when competing in straight races at Flemington over either 1100m or 1200m.
His only previous 1200m win came down the straight in the Listed Creswick Stakes in June last year.
Waller, who has worked on getting Nature Strip to settle since joining his stable this year, believes the straight suits the five-year-old’s racing style.
“Everybody is conscious of not going too hard and they want to save a bit up, whereas he just rolls comfortably,” Waller said.
“They’re not taking you on like they are from bad draws in other 1200-metre races.
“He’s allowed to roll and he’s a very fast horse. Probably one of the fastest horses in the world. And when James slipped him a bit of rein, he just went bang.”
Waller said a trip to Hong Kong for the International Sprint in December was unlikely for Nature Strip but said the gelding’s owners have been keen on running him at Royal Ascot next year.
McDonald believes Nature Strip has gone to a new level this preparation.
“He was just airborne, floating across the ground,” McDonald said.
“I slipped him a little bit more rein at the three and looked at the big screen and thought ‘oh no I’m six in front’ it felt like. He was still just going through his gears. He’s a star and he ran it out so strongly.”
Defending title holder Santa Ana Lane started the $2.15 favourite and got to the outside fence to try to make his run but finished fifth and will now be spelled.
“He just went like a tired horse,” jockey Mark Zahra said.