Nature Strip ready to take on the world at Royal Ascot

Nature Strip Royal Ascot
Nature Strip is looking to become the first Australian horse to win the King’s Stand Stakes since Scenic Blast in 2009. (Photo: TAB)

While the 2022 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot might look to be a match race between Golden Pal and Australia’s Nature Strip, Chris Waller believes there is more to it than that.

The reigning Everest champion a heavily backed $2.80 favourite with online bookmakers, with Wesley Ward’s scintillating sprinter Golden Pal ($4.50) hot on his tail.

Although many have marked down the Group 1 sprint on Tuesday (12:40am Wednesday AEST) as a race in two, Waller said on Racing TV’s program Luck On Sunday that there is a lot more to it than what may meet the eye.

Golden Pal is a speed machine who is almost guaranteed to lead the field of 18 under Irad Ortiz Jr, but Nature Strip’s trainer is hoping that his galloper’s newfound ability to relax a bit more in his races could see him get the better of the American sprinter.

“I think you’ve got to respect that the 1000m will be like the 100m sprint at the Olympics,” Waller said.

“We saw the declarations before, I think there was 18 or so. There won’t be a big distance between first and last – well hopefully there is.

“We’ve been beaten over 1000m when we’ve gone too fast. It’s a long way; it might not sound far, but it’s a tough 1000m distance with the slight undulating of the track and the steady rise at certain parts as well.

“The atmosphere of Royal Ascot is one thing as well, so I think there could be a few undercards there just happy to be under the radar ready to pounce.”

Nature Strip did taste defeat in his first run for 2022 over 1000m, when stablemate Home Affairs got the better of him in the Group 1 Lightning Stakes at Flemington.

On that occasion, Nature Strip was awkward out of the gates and was forced to chase, rather than be chased, and Waller believes it was one of his best runs despite the narrow defeat.

The Coolmore-owned Home Affairs is also set to race at Royal Ascot, with the colt being prepared to line up on Saturday in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) against fellow Australian three-year-old Artorius.

It could be a case of all three Australians lining up in that race, with Waller yet to rule out backing up Nature Strip four days after his run in the King’s Stand.

“We’re aware that the race is there – it’s as simple as that,” the trainer said

“He’s (Nature Strip) got a job to do back at home and we’ve got to see how much he puts into Tuesday’s race and how much it takes out of him first, because he’ll be going back to defend his title in The Everest in October and it’s a $15 million race.

“We want to make sure there’s something left in the locker when we go back to Australia. We don’t want to leave it all here at Ascot.

“He’d have to run very well. If he didn’t win, he’d have to be very unlucky or some reason like that. Maybe it’s a luck reason – if we didn’t break well and things didn’t out and the owners said ‘gee, we’ve come all this way we didn’t get a fair crack at them Tuesday, can we have another go Saturday?’

“But we’ll play a straight bat; we’ll let everybody know at the same time and hopefully the decision can be made.”

While James McDonald will partner Nature Strip on Tuesday, he will be aboard Home Affairs on Saturday.

Should Nature Strip back up, the likely replacement jockey would be Jamie Kah, who touched down in London on Tuesday morning.

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