Chris Waller’s sprinting sensation ran out an emphatic winner of the King’s Stand Stakes. The multiple Group One winner was pitched against the American might with Wesley Ward’s American challenger and dual Breeders’ Cup winner Golden Pal.
But when the dust cleared all that remained standing was Nature Strip. At least that’s the way his jockey, James McDonald tells it.
"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,” said McDonald.
"I got a bit of a scare at the 50 when the horse came to me," McDonald said. "I didn't think any horse could cope with him, so when a horse did come to him, I was so surprised. It was a relief there was no jockey on!" he said.
It was the climax to what had been billed as a clash of continents between the Chris Waller-trained Nature Strip, the second-highest rated horse in the world, and Golden Pal, the American star whom trainer Wesley Ward had spoken about being the best he had ever handled.
The big 7YO sauntered into the race, with McDonald appearing to have all the time in the world as the horses blasted along at more than 40 miles per hour. He sat into the machine underneath him, waited, and ignited the fire just when he wanted.
In half a furlong he was gone, clear and away from a field of Group One sprinters apart from Khaadem, that is, prompting McDonald's momentary jolt of shock and horror.
Australian Chris Waller, best known as the trainer of the great racemare Winx, will race Coolmore-owned Home Affairs in the Gr.1 Platinum Jubilee Stakes.
Nature Strip ended a 10-year wait for the nation's first Royal Ascot winner since Black Caviar.
Runner-up Twilight Calls’ trainer Henry Candy said: “I am absolutely delighted, what can you say about the winner? How many races has he won? How many millions has he won?! So it is no shame to finish second, and I thought Twilight Calls ran an absolute cracker.
"Ryan said there was a slightly messy start, and lost a length which did not help, but it did not make a difference. He might have been a better second, that's all.
"I would imagine we will go to York and somewhere they go very quick! He loves this fast ground."
Nigel Tinkler said of Acklam Express: “The winner is very, very good. We thought we'd finish in the first half, although we did not expect to be as close as that. I am delighted. He is just a lovely, lovely horse.
"York and Goodwood are the targets. He shows a lot of pace and is very quick. He was just a bit too prominent today - we thought we'd come from behind. He would have liked to have been further back early on, but he really travelled. It was brilliant. The owners backed him to finish in the first half at 40/1!
"He has been to Dubai before, and the Breeders' Cup is high on the agenda, and we can't wait to travel again.”
Race Info: Distance 5f (1,006 meters), Surface Turf, Track Straight, Qualification Three-years-old and up, Weight 8 st 12 lb (3yo);,9 st 5 lb (4yo+), Allowances,3 lb for fillies and mares, Purse £500,000 (2022),1st: £283,550, Bonuses see Global Sprint Challenge
Nature Strip, j: James Mcdonald, t: Chris Waller, Australia, twilight Calls, j: Ryan Moore, t: Henry Candy, acklam Express, j: Rowan Scott, t: Nigel Tinkler, mooneista, j: C. T. Keane, t: Jack W. Davison, equilateral, j: Kieran Shoemark, t: Charles Hills, saint Lawrence, j: Andrea Atzeni, t: Roger Varian, king's Lynn, j: David Probert, t: Andrew Balding, man Of Promise, j: William Buick, t: Charlie Appleby