It was a case of third time’s a charm for Nature Strip in The Everest as the eight-year-old saluted under James McDonald in the $15 million Randwick feature on Saturday.
The son of Nicconi started as a $3.60 favourite in the world’s richest race on turf and led for the entire 1200m journey, with the post arriving just before the fast-finishing Masked Crusader.
Just five days after Sydney’s ‘freedom day’, 10,000 patrons were allowed on course at Royal Randwick for The Everest meeting, and winning trainer Chris Waller believed it was the perfect way to “get out of COVID”.
“It’s a great race; it’s just captured the imagination of so many people, inside racing and out,” Waller told the press.
“What better way to get out of COVID than a race day?
“When he crossed the line, it certainly hit home.
“It’s a big race; it’s taking over Australia.
“They brought in some new ideas, making sure racing is portrayed in the right way.”
“He’s king of the mountain this time!”
— SKY Racing (@SkyRacingAU) October 16, 2021
Nature Strip was third-up into The Everest after winning the Concorde Stakes (1000m) and then finishing second to Eduardo in The Shorts (1100m), which allowed the gelding to springboard into Saturday’s race.
“We kept it pretty simple,” Waller said of the horse’s campaign.
“We obviously started later with him and let him do the rest.
“He’s got the highest rating sprinter in the world for a reason – that gave me some confidence.
“He’s probably justified it today.”
Waller, who also claimed The Everest in 2019 with Yes Yes Yes, has trained some superstars of the Australian turf, most notably Winx, and he believes that Nature Strip is “right up there” alongside the great mare.
The star sprinter will now be freshened for the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) at Flemington on November 6, having won the race in 2019 and finished second to Bivouac in 2020.
Nature Strip is the $3.70 favourite with online bookmakers for the VRC Sprint, ahead of Masked Crusader at $4.20.