Nature Strip bucked his first-up trend in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes on Saturday, coasting away to win by 2.5 lengths over 1000m at Royal Randwick.
The Chris Waller-trained galloper has been a bit of an enigma throughout a career that includes 17 wins and over $8 million in prizemoney, but on the weekend he stamped himself as The Everest favourite after coming back in terrific order.
The $1.50 favourite led from go to woe, defeating the well-supported Wild Ruler and two-time Group 1 winner Trekking in easy fashion under James McDonald.
“He’s come back in tremendous order,” the jockey told Sky Racing.
“Stu and all the team at home do a good job with him – he rides him every day.
“I can safely say that’s the best I’ve ever felt of him first-up.”
Nature Strip had started in the Concorde Stakes in the last two Spring Carnivals as a short favourite but was defeated by Redzel in 2019 and Gytrash in 2020, so there were some questions asked about whether he could win at his third crack.
However, the seven-year-old gelding proved any doubters wrong with a dominant display in his first competitive run since taking out the TJ Smith Stakes in April.
“I think the writing was on the wall with his last TJ win when they decided to take him on and that back-fired for them and he was able to take a sit and display that lethal turn of foot and sustained speed,” McDonald said.
“I couldn’t go slow enough at the furlong.
“I was just coasting through his gears; he’s so balanced and he’s just in a really, really good frame of mind.
“Everyone can see that when he’s walking around the parade ring and around at the start and walking back after races.”
When asked about whether or not he believes Nature Strip is the best sprinter in the world, it was a quick and easy answer for the star hoop.
“He is at the moment,” McDonald said.
Nature Strip is now the outright $4.50 favourite to win The Everest (1200m) on October 16 at Randwick.