Where to now for Nature Strip?

Few horses have polarised public opinion as much as Nature Strip, you either find yourself in #TeamSuperstar or #TeamSquib.

No question it was a win for #TeamSuperstar on the weekend after Nature Strip spaced his rivals on debut for the Chris Waller stable. 

In 13 starts he has notched up nine wins, five trainers and returned a new career peak, now rated 123 by Timeform.

With such an imposing record, it is not likely a question of 'if' Nature Strip will win a Group 1, but more so of 'when'.

The decision to run on Saturday ruled out a tilt at this Saturday's Group 1 Lightning Stakes [1000m], with the Oakleigh Plate now the expected path.

However is this the right decision?

Nature Strip and Damien Lane, picture

A lot of the time in racing, we find ourselves jumping at shadows, making determinations out of what is more likely just noise

Tom Melbourne never wins, until he finds himself in a very winnable race. How could you back ex-Darren Weir horses, until they win three of the nine races on C.F. Orr Stakes Day.

So while you don't want to read too much into what could be just coincidence/variance, there does appear a glaring pattern in Nature Strip's form profile - a pattern that hints at two versions of Nature Strip. A Jekyll and a Hyde. A hot and a cold. 

The table below shows the form/ratings of Nature Strip when greater than three weeks between runs (the hot version we saw on Saturday) and then when less than three weeks between runs (the cold version that we saw fall out the back of the telly in last spring's Moir Stakes). 

Nature Strip has still managed to win twice among those cold runs, however his ratings have declined, with his four best wins coming off 54 days, 49 days, 42 days and 134 days between runs.

His declines (cold runs) have been 8, 0, 6 and 17lbs - on average a near 8lbs drop. That hardly fills us with confidence going towards the Oakleigh Plate in just two weeks. 

Without question he is fast enough to win an Oakleigh Plate and is clearly the horse to beat on Saturday's effort, however it can be suggested that he is likely to come off that performance and not run up to his peak.

The Group 1 Newmarket [1200m] would leave Nature Strip with four weeks between runs, a more pattern pleasing target, better yet the Group 1 Galaxy [1100m] is a further two weeks away (42 days) - the perceived sweet spot.

While the Mexicans won't want to hear it, Nature Strip is now Sydney's own and a Group 1 handicap on his home track, over 1100m looks very very tempting.