Nature Strip super impressive in dominant Sandown win

The Robert Smerdon-trained Nature Strip has been an impressive winner at Sandown.

Another stunning win in a midweek race at Sandown has prompted jockey Ryan Maloney to rate lightly raced sprinter Nature Strip as good a horse as he has ridden.

Three-year-old Nature Strip started odds-on favourite in Wednesday’s United Petroleum Handicap (1000m) and the gelding lived up to the hype, belting his rivals by 5-1/2 lengths despite being allowed to cruise to the line in the final 50m by Maloney.

Nature Strip clocked 55.48sec for the 1000m and has now won three of his four starts and his past two wins at Moonee Valley and Sandown in benchmark-70 races have been by a combined 11 lengths.

“He’s as good a horse as I’ve ridden,” Maloney said.

Nature Strip’s win is some good news for trainer Robert Smerdon who is among eight people charged over race day treatments of horses.

On Tuesday, Smerdon and the seven others were charged after a lengthy investigation which stemmed from the Smerdon-trained Lovani being withdrawn by stewards from a race at Flemington on October 7 last year when they suspected she was being treated on race day against the rules.

The serious conduct charge levelled against Smerdon details 115 occasions the trainer is accused of being a party to the administration of alkalinising agents and or medications to a horse or horses on race days between June 2010 and October 7 last year.

No dates have been set for any hearings.

Nature Strip had not raced for eight weeks and the plan is for the gelding to run next in the $250,000 Inglis Dash (1100m) at Flemington on Saturday week.

“His work this time has been faultless. He’s improved,” Maloney said.

“Even though he’s only had a short time off, to win like he did today without a trial and still basically go to the line in second gear, anybody could see how good a horse he is.”

Nature Strip began well to sit outside the leader and was held together until inside the 300m when he burst clear of runner-up Holy Seal before idling down late.

“He’s got gears and good horses have got to have gears,” Maloney said.

“I think he had a few gears left in reserve today. To do what he did, he’s obviously Group-class as a three-year-old.

“Today he was all professional and there’s only further improvement to come. So that’s the scariest part.”

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