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Flemington form an Ascot bonus for Nature Strip

14 June 2022 Written by VRC

As Nature Strip bids for a Royal Ascot victory in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) tonight, potentially the first Australian success at the meeting in a decade, one thing he has in common with past winners from down under is his affinity for Flemington.

Nature Strip heads to the Ascot straight with a record of nine starts down the Flemington straight for six wins, two seconds and a fourth. It is a more illustrious record than the majority of his five predecessors, with the only real difference being that he has never contested the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m).

When Choisir created history with his King’s Stand Stakes and Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes (1200m) double in 2003, he arrived having finished first past the post on three of the four occasions he had stepped out at Flemington.

To his name though were just two wins, in the Group 2 VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) and the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m), having lost the Group 3 L’Oreal Paris Plate (1200m) – the precursor to the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) – in a controversial protest decision in 2002.

Three years later, it was the ultimate rags-to-riches story as Takeover Target charmed racing fans all over the world.

Racing five times at Flemington, he won the Group 1 Linlithgow Stakes (1200m) in 2004 before adding the Lightning-Newmarket double in 2006. Remarkably, he would not race at Flemington again after the 2006 Newmarket but he would build up an Ascot record of six starts for a win, two seconds, a third and two fourths.

While Miss Andretti arrived in England as a winner of the Lightning Stakes and the Newmarket Handicap, she was only a one-time winner at Flemington.

How?

Her wins in those two races came in the autumn of 2007, when Flemington was undergoing a track reconstruction. As a result, she won the Lightning Stakes at Moonee Valley and the Newmarket Handicap at Caulfield.

While her victories in those time-honoured races were away from Headquarters, she did boast a win over the straight six – fittingly in the Listed Straight Six (1200m) in May, 2006. She was also placed in the Linlithgow Stakes, ensuring that she arrived in the UK with straight track form.

Her fellow Western Australian, Scenic Blast, completed the same Lightning and Newmarket double as the previous two winners, although it was once again back at home at Flemington.

In addition to those two victories, he finished second to Tan Tat De Lago in the Group 3 Danehill Stakes (1200m) and third to Weekend Hussler in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m), ensuring he went to Ascot having not missed a placing at Flemington.

Which brings us to the unbeaten champion mare Black Caviar, who had won all of her seven starts at Flemington – her debut in a two-year-old handicap, the Danehill Stakes, the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) twice, the Lightning Stakes twice and the Newmarket Handicap – among 21 victories before travelling to the UK.

While Nature Strip’s record is extraordinary, it could potentially have been even better if he had been cleanly away in the Black Caviar Lightning against stablemate Home Affairs in February. Had he managed to take that prize, he would be heading to Royal Ascot with as many Flemington wins to his name as Black Caviar.

When Nature Strip takes to the pre-parade ring at Ascot this evening, he will do so in the presence of a eucalyptus tree, a cider gum planted in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

With Australian fans flocking en masse to Royal Ascot for the first time in three years, it will be as though he is back home. Hopefully, it means that the world will see the real Nature Strip in the global arena.

Caption: Takeover Target was a three-time Flemington winner before striking success at Royal Ascot.

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