Aussie horse Nature Strip has left a world-class field in its wake at Royal Ascot, speeding to victory to officially be declared the king of sprinters.
Trainer Chris Waller’s Everest winner powered to the finish by four-and-a-half lengths to win the King’s Stand Stakes at Britain’s royal meeting.
The eight-time Australian Group 1 winner, who began as 9-4 second-favourite ate up the more-fancied American dual Breeders’ Cup winner Golden Pal, with the only competition coming from loose horse Khaadem, who’d left his jockey stranded after an issue in the stalls.
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“He’s just an absolute freak of a horse,” declared Sydney jockey James McDonald.
“That riderless horse gave me a fright. I thought, ‘How has one gone with him?’
“I saw the American horse charge through too and at the two (furlong) pole, and I thought, ‘Are you going to come?’, and he had no response, and away went Nature Strip.”
It was only Australia’s seventh-ever winner at the world-famous event and Waller’s first after finishing runner-up in the Diamond Jubilee stakes with Brazen Beau in 2015.
“It was breathtaking,” said Waller.
“It means a lot. We don’t get a chance to come up and race against English, Irish, French and American horses, so to be able to bring a horse all this way and to win the way he did, it was pretty special.
“He’s a very good horse for a very long time. He’s in the twilight of his career but he’s just learned to be a racehorse now. He was a tricky horse early on but he’s got better with his years, he’s matured.”
Waller, the trainer of legendary horse Winx, said it was nice to to score the win 10 years after the great Black Caviar had also won at Royal Ascot.
“It’s very important to showcase them (Australia’s best horses) internationally,” said Waller, after the gamble of bringing his charges on a 40-hour flight from Australia, with stops in Singapore and Dubai, paid off handsomely.
“Obviously, Australia’s got a huge racing industry, breeding industry. Ratings stack up – Nature Strip’s one of the highest-rated horse in the world but until you do it on the main stage, it’s another story. It’ll just remind everyone how strong we are in Australia.”
Waller said he’s still undecided about giving Nature Strip a chance to double up at the Platinum Jubilee Stakes, which would be the first since Australia’s first Royal Ascot winner Choisir in 2003.
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