Nature Strip confirms world’s best sprinter status in The Everest

James Mcdonald admitted the Randwick straight had never seemed so long after Nature Strip clung to victory in the $15 million The Everest to confirm his ranking as the world’s best sprinter.

The multiple Group 1 winner had failed in two previous attempts at the 1200m race but it was his day on Saturday as he tracked a wide course to lead, kicked strongly at the top of the straight then found enough to fend off the late-diving Masked Crusader by a long head.

It was McDonald’s first Everest win and the champion hoop said the post seemed to take an eternity to arrive.

“You have no idea, it felt like a minute,” McDonald said.

“When I crossed the line I thought I hung on, then Tommy (Berry on Masked Crusader) said, who got it?

“It was pretty close, too close for comfort.

“He just showed so much grit and determination. He is a star.”

A crowd starved of attending events during the months of Sydney’s COVID lockdown showed their appreciation for Nature Strip, applauding him as they might have his former champion stablemate Winx.

While no horse will come close to her heroics, Chris Waller said Nature Strip was a special member of his stable and rated his Everest win among the crowning moments of his decorated training career.

“It’s right up there,” Waller said.

“It’s just a great race. It has captured the imagination of so many people, inside racing and out and what better way to get out of COVID.

“He got the highest rating sprinter in the world for a reason and that gave me some confidence. He’s probably justified it today.”

The win held extra significance as Nature Strip had a troubled preparation leading into the race last year when he finished unplaced.

He returned to win his second T J Smith Stakes over the Randwick 1200 metres in the autumn and his Everest triumph put the icing on the cake.

“Last preparation we had a scope down his throat every third day,” Waller said.

“Every time he raced he was bright, but after his races he’d struggle.

“He was constantly on antibiotics. You’d get him off antibiotics, ready for a race, try to get him right but it was all too much.”

Waller also praised the role of McDonald, who has been Nature Strip’s regular rider and a major player in teaching the once fierce-going gelding to relax.

“He gets this horse to settle and it hasn’t been just this week, it’s been over three years and that horse just connects with him,” Waller said.

“Horses run for James. If he was in a formula one car he’d be at the front of the grid.”

The expected speed battle between Nature Strip and Eduardo didn’t eventuate with the seasoned sprinter allowed to find the front on his own.

Eduardo settled fourth and was game but couldn’t bridge the margin, finishing third, another half-neck behind Masked Crusader.

While disappointed not to get the result, Joe Pride was proud of Eduardo.

“He ran great. I thought he’d run in the top three and he has,” Pride said.

Lost And Running ran the race of his life to finish fourth while jockey Kerrin Mcevoy said defending champion Classique Legend had every chance in finishing a brave fifth.

“He got into the three wide line to move into it. He gave his best effort. We just came up a little bit short this year,” McEvoy said.

About RS NewsWire

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