Chris Waller says that he’s ‘very happy’ with how his super sprinters Nature Strip and Home Affairs are prior to flying out to London on Wednesday evening, ahead of their Royal Ascot assignments this month.
The top trainer was in Melbourne late last week to oversee their final serious hit-out at Flemington and believes that his pair is ready to take on the world.
“We’ve got two very good horses that I think are ready for their journey and ready to race well,” Waller said.
“I think they’re good enough to be fighting out the finish and obviously respecting the world stage, it’s a big stage and the best come together. If we can get there in the best possible shape, we’ll do well.”
Waller confirmed that the plan at this stage is for Nature Strip to contest the King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) on June 14 and for Home Affairs to line up in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes (1200m) four days later.
“That is the plan, but we’ve said all along we’ll keep both options open for both horses,” he said.
“We just think Nature Strip could be a bit better suited to that 1000-metre sprint, respecting that’s a really tough 1000m, and Home Affairs, I think the 1200m suits his profile as well, so that is the plan and let’s hope they both make each race and run accordingly.”
Sportsbet has eight-time Group 1 winner Nature Strip as the $4.20 second favourite for the King’s Stand Stakes behind American speedster Golden Pal, while star three-year-old Home Affairs is the $4.75 favourite for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
A trip to London during the European summer is almost a rite of passage for many Aussie blokes and Nature Strip and Home Affairs are no exception to that, with Waller explaining that they are the right horses to take to Ascot.
“They’re great mates and you’ve got truly nature’s gentleman in Nature Strip, we know he can get a bit keen in his races but around the stables, he’s a gentleman and that’s great for a young colt to have as a chaperone,” he said.
“They’re next to each other in their stables back in Sydney and when they come to Melbourne, regularly doing similar pieces of work, it’s a big help for a young colt, and at the same time, Nature Strip, it’s a good mate for him too.
“Taking one horse on its own is never easy, taking a colt with a filly is almost impossible and a colt with a horse that mightn’t be relaxed as you’d like them to be is a problem too.
“It’s working well together, and they’ll help each other out.”
Australia’s leading conditioner is no stranger to competing at Royal Ascot either, having taken Brazen Beau to the royal meeting in 2015, where he was narrowly beaten by American visitor Undrafted.
So, what lessons were taken from that experience?
“Don’t change much, get the work done here, as we’ve done this morning and in the last few weeks and just keep things simple,” Waller said from Flemington.
“Our horses are world-class horses, our sprinters in Australia are world class, they will be taking on the world’s best but all we can do is have them in the best possible shape, we don’t need to make them run faster, we don’t need to complicate things, just make it simple for the horses, let them have a bit of fun, enjoy some warmer weather and they’ll run well.
“I’ve always said, if you look after a horse, they’ll look after you, that’s the stage we’re in now for the next two weeks; recovery from the journey and making sure they’re as they would be running down the straight here at Flemington or back home in Sydney and they’ll do their best.”
With 136 G1 wins to his name, Waller’s record is the envy of many trainers, but a major win on foreign soil is something that has thus far eluded him.
The Melbourne Cup and dual Everest winner acknowledged that training a Royal Ascot winner is somewhat of a bucket list item for him.
“Winning on the global stage is important, not just for me, but the horses, the staff, Australia, New Zealand where James and I are from, so there’s a few ticks that could be put on a lot of bucket lists if we did manage to be successful,” Waller said.