Nature Strip’s Royal Ascot romp gives James McDonald another season highlight

Australia’s leading jockey has won the Melbourne Cup, The Everest and now at Royal Ascot in a remarkable 12 months.Champion jockey James McDonald’s season to remember isn’t over yet.McDonald rode Nature Strip to his brilliant famous win in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday and has the chance to secure another Group 1 win with Home Affairs in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes on the final day of the famous English carnival on Saturday.But win, lose or draw on Home Affairs, it is doubtful the jockey will ever have a season of such sustained success and personal highlights again.CLICK HERE: SIGN-UP FOR A RACENET IQ MEMBERSHIP FOR ONLY $4.99“I said to Katelyn (Mallyon, fiancee) as we were going to Royal Ascot (Tuesday) that we have had an unbelievable year and if Nature Strip can win this would be the icing on the cake,’’ McDonald said.Nature Strip did win, his stunning 4½-length romp stealing the show on day one of Royal Ascot and putting an exclamation mark on McDonald’s season.He has ridden a career-high 11 Group 1 winners during 2021-22 including the Melbourne Cup on Verry Elleegant, Nature Strip’s three Group 1 wins plus The Everest, a fourth successive season where he has ridden 100 or more Sydney winners to retain his premiership title, and then international glory on Nature Strip at Royal Ascot.McDonald and Mallyon also became engaged and his fiancée is just over four months pregnant.“This season has been a dream come true,’’ McDonald said. “It’s been incredible.’’ANALYSIS: Nature Strip’s win best ever by an Aussie at AscotMcDonald, who is taking an extended European holiday after he rides Home Affairs on Saturday, said Nature Strip’s Royal Ascot triumph will stay with him forever.“It’s been a big build up, a long process to get here,’’ he said.“The owners have been talking about Royal Ascot for years and to finally get there and get the result is an amazing feeling.’’McDonald said Nature Strip was travelling like a winner a long way out in the King’s Stand Stakes.“The way Nature Strip quickened and the way he executed was scintillating,’’ McDonald said.“He gave me an unbelievable feel coming up the rise and I didn’t think another horse could go with him.“I got a bit of a fright when that other horse came at him but he didn’t have a rider and I thought that’s a bit unfair but he was just too good.’’McDonald said Nature Strip has thrived in England and rated the gelding’s King’s Stand Stakes win as a career highlight.“Nature Strip was in great form before he left for England and for him to travel like he has, and for Chris (Waller) to prepare him so well for this race, it all fell into place,’’ the jockey said.“Chris knows him like the back of his hand and he can finetune him and get him ready for the day.“This horse has come such a long way. He was fierce and difficult to ride once but you see him in the mounting yard before a race and it was like he was ready for the Ascot Gold Cup.“His demeanour is unbelievable and I honestly don’t think this horse has ever been going better. We had that race won a long way out and I got to enjoy the moment.’’Originally published as Nature Strip’s Royal Ascot romp gives James McDonald another season highlight