By Ray Hickson
In what looked little more than a barrier trial, super sprinter Nature Strip collected $83,000 for his connections and reasserted himself as the horse to beat in the TAB Everest as he completely dominated the Concorde Stakes at Randwick.
TAB wasted no time in firming the seven-year-old into $4.50 for next month’s $15 million TAB Everest and trainer Chris Waller said the exhibition Nature Strip put on for the punters was the performance of a horse that is now the complete package.
That’s ominous even this far out from the Everest, a race he’s still amazingly yet to be placed in.
“Last year we made excuses for him. The fact was he was getting taken on by horses that were giving themselves no chance but he didn’t have a Plan B,’’ Waller said.
“He couldn’t relax. If a horse takes us on now we can take a sit quite comfortably and I think that is the difference between now and then.
“Yes he’s had allergies and lots of other things that I dare not say he won’t get again this Spring but we’ll be keeping a watchful eye on everything.”
After a reasonably good start by Nature Strip standards, James McDonald allowed the chestnut, $1.50 favourite, to slide to the lead and from there he strode out untroubled to beat Wild Ruler ($5.00) by 2-1/2 lengths with Trekking ($9.50) a creditable third.
He stopped the clock at 56.66 and sprinted home in 32.62 for his last 600m, seemingly without effort. It was his 17th career win and atoned for defeats in the previous two editions of the Concorde.
“He’s come back so well. He’s had a trouble free prep. He looks like he’s in for a good Spring,’’ Waller said.
“I think again today you could see he actually raced a lot more tractably. He allowed Wild Ruler and Trekking to be in his sights.
“I actually thought when he topped the rise with Wild Ruler still on the bridle that he might come with us. But it was great to see him show that acceleration and leave a bit of a gap on them.”
James McDonald hasn’t been on Nature Strip’s back in the lead up to the Concorde due to Covid restrictions and gave the big fellow a huge rap saying: “I can safely say that is the best I’ve ever felt him first up”.
And he had no hesitation in declaring Nature Strip the best sprinter in the world.
“I couldn’t go slow enough at the furlong. He was just coasting through his gears,’’ he said.
“He is so balanced and in a really really good frame of mind. You can see it walking around the parade ring, around at the start and walking about after a race. He’s in a good frame of mind.”
Where to now for Nature Strip?
Waller said it was likely the Group 2 $500,000 Premiere Stakes (1200m) on October 2 would be his dress rehearsal for the TAB Everest though left the door slightly ajar to join a star studded edition of The Shorts coming up on September 18.
That race is expected to feature defending Everest champ Classique Legend’s return to Sydney racing plus Everest slot holders Gytrash and Lost And Running plus Eduardo and Queensland star Rothfire.
“He could run in two weeks’ time, there’s a $500,000 race here at Randwick but realistically it’s just about longevity with these horses and we’ve seen where he’s at,’’ Waller said.
“We know he’s got a couple of big races to come. We’ll see how he comes through today and keep our feet on the ground that is for sure.”
Runner-up Wild Ruler did his TAB Everest hopes no harm despite the beaten margin, he safely held off the burst of Trekking who looked certain to run past him and both horses will be fitter for their next assignments.
Both will need to impress slot holders, moreso Wild Ruler as Trekking’s place as Godolphin’s number one seed for its slot appears in place.