Nature Strip blitzed the clock, posted a big margin under a lofty weight and earned himself a whopping 108 WPR for his Flemington waltz on Saturday.
It was his first start since transferring to Darren Weir and confirmation his two earlier peaks this season were not flash in the pan results after two average runs by comparison subsequent to that.
Nature Strip’s rating is second only to Trapeze Artist (108.3 in TJ Smith) in terms of three-year-olds this season.
Those that prefer to assess horses more intuitively may suggest that is a crazy assessment. After all, he didn’t beat top class opposition so how can you rate it anywhere near a top class performance?
One of the principles of our WFA Performance Ratings is that we don’t artificially limit or enhance a horse’s performance because of the class label attached to the race.
We apply the intelligence measures and process consistently and then settle on a figure that best reflects the strength of the race and performance of each horse, regardless of what class it is.
Sometimes you come across Maiden winners that produce a Saturday city class rating or Group class winners that rated more like an Open Handicap.
That type of approach has proven to be a strength in our ratings, identifying and rating lightly raced progressive horses more accurately, earlier in their career.
Every now and again champions come along, not to mention a stack of Group class horses that rate at a level which suggest they do have that type of talent, even though they have only beaten much lower class opposition in low pressures races.
The likes of Black Caviar, Takeover Target and Weekend Hussler all rated as Group 1 talents early in their career, despite racing against much lower grade opposition.
In more recent years, we’ve rated the likes of Global Glamour, Inference and She Will Reign as serious Group class horses off the back of Provincial runs and they each went on to win at the Group 1 level.
Isolating Nature Strip’s race on Saturday, it is impossible to rate him any lower than the 108 we have assigned. That number makes sense both on our speed modelling and comparing the line of fit with what his rivals ran back through the field.
All of that said, we need to point out that one rating doesn’t automatically make Nature Strip a new superstar.
We want to see him back it up again next time out (which looks like being the Creswick Stakes at 1200m).
We also need to be mindful that Nature Strip had the perfect scenario to run his big figure on Saturday. He faced minimal pressure in the run and was allowed to do his own thing.
How he reacts when confronted with race pressure is the big question. For example, if he has to work early in the run, has to race among horses and kick clear, or fight off the challenge of another runner that looms up to him at the 400m. And also, whether he can produce a Group 1 quality rating at 1200m.
Make no mistake though, his win on Saturday presented all of the indicators of an elite Group 1 Sprinter. There are no certainties in racing, but on the question of will he or won’t he? We are very much in the camp that Nature Strip will ultimately prove himself as a Group 1 sprinter.