Nature Strip booked his trip to Royal Ascot next year after producing a breathtaking performance to storm away with the $2 million Group 1 Darley Sprint Classic.
In doing so, the supremely talented, but once slightly erratic galloper stamped himself as one of the best sprinters in the world, forever silencing those doubters who questioned his ability to run out a strong 1200m against crack sprinters.
Such was the dominance of his three-and-a-quarter-length win — and the manner in which he systematically put away the likes of an unusually flat Santa Ana Lane among other seasoned performers — that it had elated trainer Chris Waller rethinking his program for Royal Ascot.
“We were going to go for the King’s Stand (1000m), but we might look at the Diamond Jubilee Cup (1200m) too,” Waller said.
“That was the (owners’) intention after the Everest.
“I am not too sure (what he will do next year). I guess he would be a short-priced favourite (in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes at Flemington in February).
“I know the team is pretty keen to get to Royal Ascot in June, but there will be a few races before that.
“This is capping off a pretty good season for the horse. He’s a winner of three Group 1 races and that is simply as good as it gets from a sprinter’s perspective.”
Nature Strip, well supported as $3.60 second favourite off the back of his tough fourth in the Everest, jumped perfectly from gate nine and led from start to finish, powering away under James McDonald’s guidance.
Waller watched from the race from inside on a TV monitor with a three-second delay, but tempted fate when he shot a glance outside to the live action to see if his horse had maintained the margin.
He need not have worried. Nature Strip had shot even further clear, which brought a smile to Waller’s face.
“I thought, ‘bugger it’, I will have a sneak look around … and he whizzed passed the window,” Waller said. – Glenn McFarlane, Sunday Herald Sun