The acid test of whether the Al Quoz Sprint should have been upgraded to Group 1 status is staged Tuesday when five horses that contested the sprint in Dubai will line up in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Two years ago JJ The Jet Plane won the Al Quoz Sprint as a Group 2 event, but the Dubai race was upgraded to the highest level this year and was won in imperious style by Ortensia in March.
The Australian mare led home Sole Power, Joy And Fun, Monsieur Joe, Prohibit, Margot Did and Secret Asset on Dubai World Cup night and the general consensus within the racing fraternity is that the she is set to confirm her superiority.
Ortensia faces 22 rivals in the Group 1 sprint over five furlongs after opposition to Black Caviar in Saturday's Diamond Jubilee Stakes evaporated and several horses defected to Tuesday's race.
Paul Messara, her trainer, has revealed his charge is in similar form to when her burst of acceleration under Craig Williams pulled the pair clear in the final two furlongs at Meydan Racecourse to beat Sole Power by a length and a quarter. Joy And Fun was only a neck back in third.
"The race at Meydan was the best run of her career. She is going into this as well as she was into Dubai," Messara said. "Sole Power had the run of the race and peeled off 300 metres out. He had every conceivable chance. If we happened to be placed where he was we would have won by two and a half lengths. It was just how the race was run."
When Joy And Fun won the Al Quoz Sprint in 2010 it was merely a Group 3 race and the Hong Kong raider subsequently went to Royal Ascot but was injured when travelling well in the Golden Jubilee Stakes.
It took Joy And Fun over a year to get back on the right track.
In September Derek Cruz, the trainer, saddled Joy And Fun to beat Little Bridge, a rival today, in a handicap at Sha Tin. From there Cruz steadily built back up his pride and joy until he missed the break at Meydan to throw away his chance.
Joy And Fun and Little Bridge were graduates of the New Zealand bloodstock weanling sale, with Joy And Fun costing $NZ15,000 (Dh46,600), while the latter was only $NZ 9,000. With 21 wins between them, they have clearly outrun their price tags.
Ortensia was sent to Messara last year as a final throw of the dice by her owners after she appeared to lose her zest for racing.
All three horses will be supported by a phalanx of owners and friends, who have made the journey around the world to be at Ascot on Tuesday.
"We've got about 30 people coming over," said Angel Cruz, the wife of Derek Cruz.
"The owners are very excited and will be having a big party in London.
"Apparently you are not allowed to drive a coach down Newmarket high street so they've had to hire two minibuses instead.
"They bought him as a yearling so we've had him for a long time so it is no longer about the money any more. It's now about the racing spirit."
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