Source: TDN, written by Oz Wedmore
Image courtesy of Racing Victoria
On Saturday evening it was Nature Strip (Nicconi) who was crowned Australian Racehorse of the Year at the 2022 Racing Awards in Melbourne. Managing owner Rod Lyons was in attendance and spoke to TDN AusNZ about his Champion.
“It is amazing,” Lyons said. “My wife and I went to the presentation last night (Saturday) and it’s hard to believe when you look around and see all the great trainers and highlights of all the great horses and you’re up there with them.”
Since he won the title last in 2020, Nature Strip has added five Group 1 victories to his CV, not to mention last year’s The Everest. Over his career he’s been prone to the odd sub-par performance, but when you’re setting your own standard that’s somewhat inevitable.
Asked to draw a highlight from a season in which he was more consistent than ever, finishing only once out of the top two placings from eight starts, Lyons was in no doubt that it came courtesy of his dominant performance in July’s G1 King’s Stand S. at Royal Ascot.
“There were a number of highlights, the third (G1) TJ (Smith S.) was fantastic, The Everest was fantastic, but travelling halfway round the world to experience the history, seeing all the great trainers and jockeys and being at Royal Ascot with a whole bunch of friends – that takes some beating,” said Lyons.
“There were a number of highlights, the third (G1) TJ (Smith S.) was fantastic, The Everest was fantastic, but travelling halfway round the world to experience the history, seeing all the great trainers and jockeys and being at Royal Ascot with a whole bunch of friends – that takes some beating.” – Rod Lyons
“I wouldn’t swap any of them, but if you put a gun to my head I’d have to say Royal Ascot was something special, something I’ve dreamt my whole life about.”
Lyons also heaped praise onto his trainer, Chris Waller, who is responsible for the last seven straight Champion Australian Racehorse of the Year awards.
“Chris puts the horse first… he manages the horse so well,” he said.
Nature Strip walked away with more than just the Australian Racehorse of the Year, he was also crowned Champion Sprinter for a third time, a tally which puts him on level terms with another of Australia’s greats who conquered Royal Ascot.
“That was our third Sprinter of the Year and we’re now equal with Black Caviar as three-time Sprinters of the Year,” noted Lyons.
“To win these titles you have to be dominant over a period of time, and that’s what this bloke has done.”
With the 8-year-old gelding apparently in the form of his life, there is plenty to look forward to ahead of a season that could be spent in large parts defending his crowns from last season.
“We race in two weeks in The Shorts and then four weeks into The Everest. Then there’s a number of choices after that – Chris will decide whether we come down to Melbourne and race in the G1 Darley, which he’s won twice before, or whether we stay in Sydney where there’s a couple of lovely races,” reported Lyons.
“Again, Chris will put the horse first but I’m looking forward to defending The Everest crown and either the race in Sydney or the race in Melbourne, the Darley would be lovely, to try to win three of those would be amazing for the history books.”