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What happens when athletes overstay their welcome?

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Roar Rookie
31st July, 2023

With the recent selection of David Warner for the Ashes tour of England, it brings up the touchy subject of top-level professional athletes overstaying their welcome, despite a massive dip or decline in form.

Once they have missed their opportunity of a swansong, or a home farewell, when is it time to tap them on the shoulder?

Nature Strip is heading into this category after the recent announcement that he will race past his 9th birthday. One must wonder why?

The rising nine-year-old Nicconi gelding has impressively won over $20,000,000 in prizemoney, and he has tasted Group 1 glory an incredible nine times.

He has climbed the Everest, the worlds richest race on turf, and he equaled Chautauqua’s record of three consecutive victories in the time-honoured T.J. Smith.

He successfully took on the world’s best sprinter at Royal Ascot, and he still sits inside the top ten of the Longines official world rankings.

However, since his international triumph nearly twelve months ago, Nature Strip has only been successful once, in the Group 2 Shorts over 1100m. He was game in defeat attempting to defend his Everest crown, however his last three runs have well and truly signalled the beginning of the end.

James McDonald on Nature Strip salutes after winning The Everest at Royal Randwick Racecourse.

James McDonald on Nature Strip salutes after winning The Everest at Royal Randwick Racecourse. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)


In the Group 1 VRC Classic at Flemington, he was off the bit a long way from home. To his credit he fought back tenaciously, however he never looked like a realistic winning chance. First up in his recent campaign, in the Group 1 Lightning, he was the first under pressure and he never travelled a yard.

It was unlike the Champion we have come to love and admire, and unthinkably he finished outside the top four, a feat not seen since his three-year-old season.

His recent fourth in the T.J.Smith put the writing on the wall for the retirement home. While he still showed a nice turn of foot out of the gates, he was again the first one off the bit, under pressure furlongs from home, and he was comfortably beaten by the next generation of stars.

Rarely have champions from any era lost four races in a row and regained supremacy. More concerning than the loses is the way he has been performing during his races, it has been “un Nature Strip like’.

Over the journey he has been known for his high cruising speed, his ability to be cuddled and nursed on top of the speed, and finally, his ability to put a high class field to the sword during the concluding stages. His will to win, and even his desire to race, doesn’t seem to be there anymore.

So why race on? He has achieved everything a sprinter can in this country and more, the owners have more than enough prizemoney from the twenty-two victories, and he has given sporting and racing fans around the country a great ride and lots of enjoyment.

There is no natural improvement to come for a horse lining up for his L-Plates in the coming years, the next generation well and truly have his measure and his crown, and it is hard, almost impossible, to see a form reversal.


Would we rather remember a Champion for what he has achieved during his peak, or do we want to watch a struggling former King of the jungle being circled by vultures?

The in-laws and David Warner have the ability to overstay their welcome, Nature Strip is unfortunately entering the same dangerous waters.

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