It was ten years since the last Australian horse won at Royal Ascot, and what a day that was with the mighty Black Caviar holding on in dramatic fashion for a thrilling and historic win. But for many today was well worth waiting for because Nature Strip never looked like getting beat as he romped to a four and a half length win in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes, emphasising once again the quality of the southern hemisphere sprint division.
While he may have been ridden and trained by men who have New Zealand stamped on their passport Nature Strip is trained at Gold Coast, Queensland. The long trip to the other side of the world didn’t seem to have ruffled and of his feathers and he looked a picture in the paddock ahead of the race.
When the stalls opened jockey James McDonald had Nature Strip, who went off a 9/4 second favourite at Ladbrokes, out smartly. This wasn’t the case for the 15/8 favourite, the US trained Golden Pal, who reared up and lost valuable ground.
As they settled during the first furlong Nature Strip moved forward under minimum urging to take a prominent position. Golden Pal, on the other hand, had to be hurried along by Irad Ortiz but he responded and was soon in front.
At the two furlong marker Golden Pal started to feel the effect of using so much speed early and he quickly fell away, finishing last in the end. Nature Strip moved to the front and from that point the result was never in the slightest doubt with McDonald pushing his mount out to the line while the track commentator was calling ‘look how far they’ve won by’ to a packed grandstand.
“He’s an absolute freak of a horse,” said McDonald after the race, adding “I think he silenced a few critics because that was scintillating.”
Trainer Chris Waller was quick to highlight the scale of the challenge, “I could give you an endless amount of things that could have gone wrong but it’s just been a dream.”
Asked whether he was now planning to try to do the double and win Saturday’s big sprint, the Platinum Jubilee Stakes, Waller was cautious. “He’s still got to get through the next few days and of course he has to get home again too, we want to take a horse home that’s on the top of his game, not with his head on the ground so we’ll respect the horse and he’ll do the talking.”
Nature Strip was cut to 5/2 from 6/1 for the Platinum Jubilee and is now a 9/4 favourite for next month’s July Cup at Newmarket.