Australia’s greatest mare Black Caviar may have returned home from England after her one-hit-run at Royal Ascot last month but another great sprinting mare in Ortensia will continue her overseas raid in the 2012 July Cup on the weekend.
Paul Messara’s six-year-old daughter of Testa Rossa was last seen running a distant ninth as the beaten favourite in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes (1005m) at Royal Ascot, the dual Winterbottom Stakes champ unable to really let down on the soft track against a big field.
It was a disappointing result for the horse that enjoyed a big Group 1 international victory on Dubai World Cup Night back on March 31, Ortensia scoring the Al Quoz Sprint title.
Messara and connections are now hoping she can bounce back in the £400,000 Group 1 Darley July Cup (1207m) at Newmarket on July 14.
There are currently 28 horses remaining in contention for the July Cup 2012, Ortensia one of the top fancies.
In the latest July Cup odds Ortensia occupies the third line of betting at a quote of $8, equal with the James Fanshawe-trained Society Rock who ran fifth to the undefeated queen Black Caviar in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes last start.
The price on Ortensia firmed in following her smart track gallop at Newmarket last Thursday.
In the hitout, which Messara unfortunately didn’t touch down in time for, saw Ortensia put around 20 lengths on the next best finisher over the July Cup distance of six furlongs, or 1200-metres.
“It is the second time she has been on the July Cup course,” Messara, who prepared Alverta to run third to another Aussie Starspangledbanner in the 2010 July Cup, said.
“She had an easy workout on the course there the previous week but we wanted her to have a good gallop over it before the race.
“It is quite a unique course but she seemed to handle it very well.
“We got some good, positive feedback from her jockey, Michael Hills, about how she galloped, too.”
For the King’s Stands Ortensia was ridden by one of Australia’s leading hoops Craig Williams.
Williams however will be replaced by Eclipse Stakes winning hoop William Buick, 23, who takes over riding duties for the July Cup.
“William Buick will take the reins and he knows the track well,” Messara’s stable foreman Barry Wyntle confirmed this week.
Messara was also excited to have an English jockey in the saddle this time round.
“It’s good to have a rider with local knowledge,” Messara said.
Wyntle is confident that Ortensia can return to form this weekend, excusing her failure last time out.
“She ran her race before they jumped and then got hammered during the run,” Wyntle said of the King’s Stand.
“Her raceday manners were the main problem.”
Messara agrees, saying punters will see a ‘different horse’ in the July Cup.
“There were a few excuses for what happened at Royal Ascot,” Messara said.
“I think you will see a different horse in the July Cup – she is going as well as ever.
“Basically she got over-excited and cooked herself before the race.
“Just the environment she was in made it hard to get away anywhere before the race and there were a lot of people on both sides of the pre-parade ring.
“She was dripping with sweat by the time we saddled her up so she’s run part of her race already.
“She copped a couple of bumps in the race and pulled up with a pretty sore back but it’s mended now and she looks good.
“To be honest, I went into the (King’s Stand) supremely confident we’d be hard to beat, certainly in the first three, because on every aspect of her training she’d had gone up a level since Dubai.
“As we all we know, horses are not machines and things can go wrong. It wasn’t something I could have prepared for because I’d never had that issue with her before at her previous three starts.
“Form reversals are always possible, especially with mares, and when you encounter a set of circumstances like Ortensia did last start, you just continue to train the horse as if you won the race and often you get a bit of a surprise then next time they go around.”
Messara also hopes Newmarket is going to suit the $2.14 million earner more than Royal Ascot despite it also being a notoriously undulating course.
“First of all it’s close to where she is being trained and it’s almost like a country-style racetrack and I think it will be fine,” he said.
“Newmarket is a very undulating track so it’s very difficult to know how she is going to handle it on the day.
“I am fairly confident she will handle it.
“The firmer the track surface the better for us. In fact, I’d be quite happy with a heatwave to take out a few of the locals.”
July Cup betting markets are led by King’s Stand Stakes runner-up Bated Breath who pays around $3.80 and the Aiden O’Brien-trained Excelebration who is rated a $6 chance after their second to the world’s best racehorse Frankel in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes (1609m).
Another Aussie connection in the race is the former Peter Snowden-trained Sepoy who is set to have their swansong race in the July Cup.
The former star juvenile, owned by Godolphin, is a four-time elite level champ back in Australia including the coveted Blue Diamond Stakes – Golden Slipper double from last autumn.
Since being sent overseas however Sepoy has failed to live up to the same potential with two unplaced efforts.
The very valuable stable will begin his new career at stud after the July Cup.
Godolphin are also likely to be represented by fellow Aussie expat Soul coming off an exceptional fourth to Black Caviar in the Diamond Jubilee.
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