Australia: Chris Waller charts new route to Royal Ascot for Nature Strip

Nature Strip wins Darley Sprint Classic
Nature Strip (James McDonald) is heading to Royal Ascot. Photo: Racing and Sports

By Jon Lees

Australia: Chris Waller has announced a change of plan for Royal Ascot hopeful Nature Strip but still hopes to bring the sprinter to Britain this summer.

The triple G1 winner, who finished fourth in this month’s Lightning Stakes on his first run of the year, was expected to stay in Melbourne and contest the Newmarket Handicap next.

Ireland: Kew Gardens set to lead strong Aidan O’Brien team in Dubai

But Waller has had a change of heart and has instead decided to target lucrative prizes closer to his Sydney headquarters.

He remains committed to running Nature Strip at Royal Ascot where the G1 King’s Stand Stakes is the intended target.

Nature Strip, an emphatic winner of the G1 Darley Sprint Classic at Flemington in November, started odds-on favourite for the Lightning in which he was beaten just over three lengths behind surprise winner Gytrash.

Waller said: “The ownership group and I have been weighing up our options as to where he should have his next run.

“There is obviously the option to run in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap where he would carry 58kg which will make things very tough for him giving a lot of weight to some top class horses, or alternatively he could go to the Challenge Stakes Group 2 which is run over 1,000m at Randwick on March 7.

“It has not been an easy decision but we have now made a final call to bring him back to Sydney and prepare him for the Challenge Stakes.

“He has some big targets over the next four months which will, all going well, include a run in the TJ Smith during The Championships and also fulfil a lifetime goal of the owners to have a runner at Royal Ascot.”

Waller, who spurned successive opportunities to take Winx to Royal Ascot, has saddled only one runner at the meeting in Brazen Beau who finished half a length second to Undrafted in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes in 2015.

• For more Australian news, visit racingandsports.com

Australia: Melbourne Cup in mind as Hungarian ‘freak’ Nancho joins Cummings

Australia: Flemington plan for Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare