Cardboard cuttings, no antibiotics and food on the floor: Nature Strip’s different Everest prep

Champion trainer Chris Waller knows the difficulties of hay fever, so looks at Nature Strip in his box with a touch of sympathy heading into The Everest at Randwick on Saturday.

The box is unlike any other in his massive operation with the six-time group 1 winning sprinter living on cardboard rather natural bedding of hay and shaving.

Trackwork rider Stuart Williams with Nature Strip at home on cardboard in his stable at Rosehill.Credit:Nick Moir

“I know how he feels, I get hay fever, and I’m not trying to win races,” Waller said. “If it’s hard to breathe you just don’t feel any good. I’ll do anything to make myself feel better.

“We put him on the cardboard to help him, because it cuts down the dust, and it’s the dust that causes the hay fever, which is caused by his allergies.

“We have tried so many things with him and this year we have done something different again. It seems to be working. But we won’t really know until Saturday.”

Nature Strip has been the dominant sprinter in Australia for the past three years since he joined the Waller team, but the autumn has always been better to him than spring. It is basically because he doesn’t have to deal with the hay fever problem.

Nature Strip before a gallop at Rosehill earlier this month.Credit:Getty

Waller is a master of finding the little things that make the big difference and when you are racing in a $15 million race, every move is important. It means Nature Strip not only lives on cardboard, but he is fed on the ground.

“Horses are natural graziers, and they need to get their head down to basically blow their nose and get everything out of it,” Waller explained. “You don’t want them to have bad bacteria, and it’s the way of getting it out of the nose.

“We have tried a lot of things with him, but I think what we are doing now is working the best.”

Waller and his vets had Nature Strip on, what would be the human approach to hay fever last year, when he started favourite in The Everest but finished down the track.

Something had to change, so Waller decided on a more natural approach this year.

“We had him on antibiotics more days than he wasn’t last year, all ones that you can race on, but I think it might have ruined his gut health,” Waller said. “He had puffers, the works.

“Our vet thought let’s try something different this spring, so we forgot the antibiotics, we only use them when it is really bad.

“We just have him on probiotics for his gut health. What you have to remember is that antibiotics will kill bacteria, but there is a lot of good bacteria they are killing as well.

“You can see the difference in his coat, and he is just a happier horse.

“The old timers say a horse looks well on the outside he is good on the inside. If he looks bad on the outside, things aren’t too good on the inside.”

Waller has a reference on every horse in his stable from weekly photos while they are in work and when he sees Nature Strip now he knows he is in great shape.

“I looked at him this morning and his coat was better than last year, but there are still a couple of days to go and things can go wrong,” Waller said. “We have done what we can, we just want him to do his part on Saturday.”

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