Aussie sprinter Nature Strip lights up opening day of Royal Ascot

·3-min read

Australian sprinter Nature Strip was labelled a "freak of a horse" after making the long journey worthwhile by winning the Group One King's Stand Stakes on the first day of the Royal Ascot meeting on Tuesday.

The Chris Waller-trained star's sublime performance took place with the meeting's most notable supporter Queen Elizabeth II absent.

As she watched on television from Windsor Castle, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla stood in.

It was the first Royal Ascot since 2019 to greet a full house made up largely of top-hatted and tail-coated men and women dressed in the latest fashion, after two years of crowd restrictions due to Covid.

Nature Strip was only Waller's second runner at the meeting -- Brazen Beau finished second in the 2015 Platinum Jubilee Stakes -- but he never gave his jockey James McDonald a moment's concern.

"He's an absolute freak of a horse," said McDonald.

"I thought how has one come with him. I didn't know it was a loose horse. That riderless horse (Khadeem) gave me a little fright!"

Waller was delighted he had confirmed he deserved to be rated among the best horses in the world.

"It means a lot," said Waller.

"We don't get the opportunity very often to come here and take on the English, Irish, French, Americans and even Dubai and Hong Kong runners.

"To therefore bring a horse here and not only run, but win is very special. It was breathtaking."

Waller said he would decide later in the week if Nature Strip would run in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes, although he already has Home Affairs in it.

- 'It was tricky' -

Earlier the meeting got off with a bang as Baaeed showed why he is presently the top-rated horse in the world.

He extended his unbeaten run to eight with an effortless victory in the opening Queen Anne Stakes, justifying his odds of 1/6 on.

The four-year-old, with Jim Crowley riding for trainer William Haggas, beat Real World by one-and-three-quarter lengths.

"The only way I can explain the feeling is when you go to the funfair and you're waiting in the queue for a fast ride, that's the feeling before you get on him," said Crowley, whose delight was etched across his face as he high-fived the stable lad.

"Once you're on him and away it's great -- I really enjoy it. He's a pleasure to ride.

"It's the pinnacle. You could spend your whole life waiting for a horse like this to come along. This is a superstar.

"(Owner) Sheikh Hamdan (al-Maktoum who died last year) will be looking down smiling."

Coroebus -- owned by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Operation -- picked up the other Group One contest, the St James's Palace Stakes.

He had to battle hard to do so under William Buick and become the 16th horse to complete the English 2000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes double.

"You have to enjoy these good horses you know I am very privileged to get on them," said Buick, who was recording his 29th Royal Ascot winner.

"Then it was a case of getting the job done and it was tricky.

"He is brave, has a turn of foot and a will to win. He has everything you want in a race horse."

Appleby, welcoming home his 12th Royal Ascot victor, said it was a "tough and gritty performance and class and determination got us over the line".

Earlier Hollie Doyle took the second race on the card, guiding Bradsell to win the Coventry Stakes for trainer Archie Watson.

"I said to my fiancee last night 'Whatever wins this is a superstar' and that's what he's gone and done," said Watson.

"For us this is massive and I just want to thank everybody; I'm just delighted to repay everybody by winning such a good race as this."

pi/jc

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