NATURE STRIP (James McDonald) with Chris Waller after The King's Stand Stakes Royal Ascot 14 Jun 2022 - Pic Steven Cargill /

Widden Stud owner Antony Thompson described it as a little bit of unfinished business when he was trackside at Royal Ascot to watch Nature Strip reaffirm his title as the world’s best sprinter by taking out the Group 1 King’s Stand (1000m).

Now with a mind-boggling $18.4m in prizemoney, Thompson bought into Nature Strip’s sire Nicconi before the stallion tackled the King’s Stand back in 2010 when he finished an unlucky fourth, beaten 2.6 lengths for trainer David Hayes and jockey Frankie Dettori.

Nicconi (Bianconi x Nicola Lass) had his last race just 24 days later when he beat four runners home, with jockey Damien Oliver, in the Group 1 July Handicap (1207m) at Newmarket.

Just a couple of months after his English assault, Nicconi started what was to become an illustrious stud career when he served a book of 156 mares at Widden Stud in his first season.

Last year he was relocated to Widden’s Victorian stud where he served 188 mares at a service fee of $27,500.

Thompson said he hadn’t been surprised with what Nicconi had been able to achieve as a stallion.

“He was a high-class sprinter himself and ran very well at Ascot and was unlucky,” he said.

“We came away with David Hayes and the Devitt and Gordon families, who raced him, feeling like there was a bit of unfinished business.

“So to come back and see Nature Strip win at Ascot is fantastic and something, I guess, fills a bit of a hole.”

Thompson said the relocation of Nicconi had been a big boost to the Victorian breeding industry.

“A lot has been said about the rise of the Victorian breeding industry and with the stallion power they’ve got and certainly Nicconi is a huge addition, I’d say,” he said.

“He is a horse that statistically has been very solid with his winners to runners and with his yearlings, he is a very commercial horse.

“He has got the world’s best sprinter and he has got a very good filly (Graceful Girl) for Bob Peters that we’ll see back soon, so he is coming into his own.

“He is a very solid stallion and trainers love them. They have great temperaments and I just think they are a horsemen’s horse and those who have Nicconis enjoy them and a lot of them who have bought them and had luck with them are trying to buy another one.”

Thompson attributes Nicconi’s success in the sales ring as a result of his consistency and his ability to produce such a good type.

Rising 17-year-olds, Thompson said the stallion was hitting his straps and starting to fire up.

“With the breeders working out how to mate them and the trainers working out how to train them, they are starting to come out into their own,” he said.

“He works with a pretty good cross-section of mares and when you go through it there is plenty of history and options that work with him.”

Hayes, who now trains in Hong Kong, was a part-owner of Nicconi and trained the entire to two Group 1 victories and rated the horse as the fastest colt to come out of Lindsay Park and the best sprinter he has trained.

And he was always confident Nicconi would become a good stallion after winning the Group 1 Galaxy (1100m) and the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m).

“He was a magnificent looking horse,” Hayes said.

“I was part-owner of the horse and have stayed in him with the Gordon and Devitt families.”

Hayes said that after starting favourite in the King’s Stand, Nicconi blew it at the start when he came out last.

“I think that if he was a gelding, he would have been like a Nature Strip.

He would have been a very, very consistent sprinter and at the top level.

“He was Group 1 but badly needed gelding but went to stud.”

Hayes said they got a good price for Nicconi as a stallion and were able to remain in the ownership.

He said Nature Strip’s timing to beat the best sprinters and win races like The Everest had been amazing and his ability to return every year to win at the same carnival had also been amazing.

“His stake money is incredible,” Hayes said.

Nature Strip (out of Strikeline, by Desert Sun), which has a race record of 38: 21-7-1, has won the last three editions of the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m).

And like his sire Nicconi, the seven-year-old is also a winner of the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m) at Flemington in 2021.

The 2010 Lightning Stakes was Nicconi’s last win and he had four more starts later that year – including two in England – before being retired to stud.

Nature Strip didn’t have much luck in this year’s Black Caviar Lightning Stakes and was beaten a short half head by stablemate Home Affairs who faded in this year’s King’s Stand.

Hayes said he doesn’t have any horses by Nicconi in his stable but says there are a few that a winning and doing quite well in other Hong Kong stables.

Nicconi, which served 118 mares last season, has sired 22 Australian stakes winners that have won 52 stakes races.

His service fee has been set at $22,000 this year.