Nature Strip produced a blitzing display to win the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday, giving Australia a long-awaited victory at the famous meeting.
Billed as a fascinating international clash between Chris Waller’s star sprinter from Down Under and Wesley Ward’s American hero Golden Pal, the five furlong dash was expected to produce a tight finish, but Nature Strip blew away all before him.
Sent off 9/4 second favorite, Nature Strip moved to the front by halfway point and quickly moved well clear under James McDonald, who was riding his second Royal Ascot winner.
There was drama in the background from the very start as Golden Pal, usually fast out of the stall, missed the break and was soon on the backfoot, while Khaadem lost his rider Jamie Spencer leaving the gates.
The rest of the field never got into contention for the win as Nature Strip had only the loose Khaadem for company at the finishing line, winning by with four-and-a-half lengths from Twilight Calls, with 200/1 shot Acklam Express and Mooneista close up in third and fourth respectively.
It is the first Australian-trained winner at Royal Ascot since Black Caviar in 2012.
McDonald said: “That was incredible, the team have done a marvelous job.
“I’m so lucky to be on him and he’s just an absolute freak of a horse. I think he’s silenced a few critics with that performance because it was scintillating.
“I didn’t know the riderless horse was riderless and I was thinking ‘how has one come with him?’. He was just incredible.
“I saw the American horse charge through, at the two pole I was thinking ‘are you going to come?’, But he had no response. It was the riderless horse who gave me a fright.”
Waller, who trained superstar mare Winx, said: “It means a lot. We don’t get the chance to race against the English, the Irish and even Americans today an awful lot.
“It’s pretty special to bring a horse all this way and compete against the best in the world and to win the way he did.
“It was breathtaking, it was a good display and he’s a very good horse. He has been for a long time.
“I guess he’s in the twilight of his career, but he’s learned to be a racehorse now as he was tricky early on. It’s an honor to train him.
“Going international is very important to showcase our breed in Australia and of course he’s one of the highest-rated horses in the world and it’s stacked up.
“We’ll see how he is after this and we’ll make a decision later in the week on whether he runs in the Platinum Jubilee (on Saturday). This is definitely in the top five wins I’ve ever had.”