Nature Strip owner hints at Royal Ascot tilt

Nature Strip wins VRC Sprint
Nature Strip and James McDonald celebrating the 2021 VRC Sprint Classic win. (Racing Photos)

Nature Strip’s managing owner, Rod Lyons, has revealed that Royal Ascot could be on the horizon for the Everest-winning sprinter in 2022.

The $16 million earner trialled at Rosehill on Monday morning, winning the 900m hit-out in “typical” style under his regular rider, James McDonald.

The Chris Waller-trained galloper led the field easily before just clicking through his gears in the straight, defeating Group 1 winner Forbidden Love by three-quarters of a length.

“It was a typical trial, he always trials well,” Lyons told

“Chris was a bit worried he was very fresh, he put the earmuffs on him. He’d been going terrific leading up to the trial, James and Chris and the team are all very, very happy with it.

“It looked terrific, no complaints, no problems, it was a typical Nature Strip trial.”

Nature Strip had a three-start campaign in the 2021 autumn, where he won both the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m) at Flemington and the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) during The Championships at Royal Randwick.

Lyons said he will follow a near-identical path this year, before he potentially travels abroad in a bid to win at the Royal Meeting in June.

“We’ve had some inquiries from Royal Ascot but no official invitation yet,” Lyons explained.

“Chris wants to see how he’s come back up, see how he’s racing and if he can race as well as he did previously. We’re racing against the top sprinters in Australia, so if he did happen to get beaten, as long as he ran terrific races, I think that would still be on the cards.

“That decision will be left to Chris, he knows we want to go, but he’ll put the horse in front of everything.”

The seven-time Group 1 winner is nearing retirement, with Lyons hopeful that the seven-year-old gelding has two more seasons left in him.

Nature Strip is the $2.25 favourite in the Lightning Stakes, while he is the $4 favourite in the TJ Smith as he aims to win the Randwick feature for the third year in succession.

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