Nature Strip narrowly held off Houtzen (Image: Racing Photos)
Nature Strip scorched the turf to win Saturday's Group 2 McEwen Stakes (1000m) at The Valley but questions about his Everest credentials remain.
The Darren Weir-trained speedster led all comers from the inside barrier and clocked multiple sub-11-second splits between the 800m and 400m to deny Houtzen by a nose, setting a new track record of 56.95 seconds in the process.
WATCH: Nature Strip's win
While Weir acknowledged that some punters may still have doubts about his ability to run out a strong 1200m, he declared the four-year-old the fastest horse he's trained and said he could be ridden more conservatively in future.
With managing owner Rod Lyons set to continue discussions with the last remaining Everest slot-holder, the Australian Turf Club, Weir said his focus would be preparing Nature Strip for the Group 1 Moir Stakes (1000m) next start.
"The speed that they went, he was going to be found wanting late," Weir said.
"Normally we wouldn't let horses out of the barrier like that but if he didn't use his barrier and go hard like he did it becomes messy.
"There will be people querying the 1200m but with under his belt and another good, solid run in the Moir, I think we'll be right.
"He's the fastest horse I've trained."
Already assured an Everest start, Anthony Freedman's Shoals finished third - nearly four lengths adrift of Nature Strip - and jockey Tim Clark was satisfied with the first-up run.