McDonald Rates UK Trip An Everest Advantage For Nature

By Ray Hickson

Champion jockey James McDonald says it’s up to the younger brigade to lift to Nature Strip’s level if they are to deny him a second TAB Everest later this year.

The superstar arrived back at Chris Waller’s Rosehill stable during the week, fresh from a break since his heroics at Royal Ascot where he posted a runaway win in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m).

McDonald said although the horse has been across the globe and back he has done nothing but thrive on the experience.

Rival trainer John O’Shea, who has Lost And Running Everest bound again, this week suggested Nature Strip’s UK hit and run trip, which allowed him to miss a good chunk of winter, is to his advantage and Mc Donald tends to agree.

“The horse never missed a beat and he thrived the whole time, he’s taken no ill effect from it so I’d have to say it would be an advantage,’’ McDonald said.

“He hasn’t experienced cold weather until now.

“He did two weeks in Newmarket which would have been beautiful for him and he was at Werribee when he came back where he wouldn’t have been working on soft ground either.

“It’s a huge advantage for all of us going forward, Chris and the team know him so well and just fine tune him as much as they need to.

“He was so supple walking around Charlie Hills’ arena (where Nature Strip was based in England), he was as loose as anything, which is just incredible for a seven-year-old.”

Nature Strip, who again runs in the Chris Waller Racing slot, is a dominant $2.80 favourite in TAB’s all-in Everest market with rising four-year-old Mazu the only other contender under double figures at $8.

It’s expected Waller will give Nature Strip a similar preparation to last spring as he prepares for his fourth TAB Everest tilt with everything geared towards peaking again in the $15 million sprint classic at Royal Randwick on October 15.

McDonald won’t sit on Nature Strip’s back for a little while until he’s closer to his first barrier trial but said his wins in the TJ Smith, his third straight, and the King’s Stand are proof the gelding is right at the top of his game.

“It’s mind blowing because he actually is getting better,’’ he said.

“That Ascot performance was as good as you’ll see Nature Strip go and I don’t think horses can go much better than the way he did. That’s saying a lot.

“His consistency for the last two seasons is unbelievable. He is the horse to beat off his performances, he’s the benchmark. He is getting older but he is in career best form.

“The younger ones are there but they have to get to his level.”