NEWMARKET, England // There was a time when Australian sprinters were revered in this part of the world, but ahead of today's Group 1 July Cup it seems, like their cricket team, some of the sheen has rubbed off.
Ever since Choisir won both Group 1 sprints at Royal Ascot in 2003 there has been the understanding in Britain that sprinters from Down Under were better than their European counterparts.
Yet 2012 has hardly been a vintage year for the Australian sprinter, and both Ortensia and Sepoy have the reputation of a nation riding on their challenge when they take on 13 other runners in the six-furlong feature.
The endless rain during this British summer has played a crucial role and was one of the contributing factors to Black Caviar's deflating effort in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes last month at Royal Ascot. Despite the excuses, Black Caviar's flaccid performance was the latest in a long line of runs by Australian horses that have been underwhelming.
Ortensia produced a stunning turn of foot in the Al Quoz sprint at Meydan Racecourse in March, but in the supercharged atmosphere at the Royal Meeting she became so agitated she blew her chance, according Paul Messara, her trainer.
She could only finish ninth in the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes, giving way to such horses such as Sole Power, whom she thrashed in Dubai. Messara, who is a meticulous trainer, insists he has thought of everything this time, from schooling her in the July Course paddock to giving her two racecourse gallops.
For all of their worldwide success, Godolphin's recruitment policy from Australia has so far been a failure.
Sepoy's reputation was so good in Australia that there was a clamour for a clash with Black Caviar.
His record of 10 wins from 12 starts preceded his arrival in Dubai but nine horses finished in front of him in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.
If back to his best, he should run a huge race on turf, but it is rarely that easy in the world of international racing, as his trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni concedes.
"He's in good form and is ready to have a run," Mahmood Al Zarooni said. "I think the ground will suit him, he won a Group 1 in Australia on soft, but how good he is compared to the British horses, I don't know.
"His form is very difficult to judge when you try and compare him to the horses over here."
Al Zarooni has suggested that Sepoy failed to handle Meydan's Tapeta surface but when you look at Helmet, Godolphin's other high-profile Australian recruit, Australian form seems to have been lost in translation this season in Europe.
The list does not stop with those two. Godolphin also recruited Dysphonia alongside Helmet and Sepoy from Peter Snowden, the Australian trainer.
On her first start at Meydan she was 11 lengths behind Mahbooba in the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes.
She was then eighth behind African Story in the Godolphin Mile before a moderate campaign in England this British Turf season.
Only Soul has bucked the trend.
Saeed Bin Suroor's sprinter clearly failed to handle the Tapeta when last behind Krypton Factor in the Golden Shaheen but ran the race of his life to finish fourth to Black Caviar at Ascot.
The five year old has not made the cut, however, so it is left to Sepoy and Ortensia to fly the flag today on their own.
SOUMILLON HOLDS ON AGAINST DETTORI
Christophe Soumillon held off Frankie Dettori in a bitter struggle to the finish line as French raider Giofra denied Elusive Kate in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes yesterday.
Dettori made his move three furlongs from home aboard John Gosden’s runner but Soumillon picked up his long-standing rival inside the final furlong to edge half a length clear at the line for trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre.
Siyouma, another French raider was third, with Godolphin’s Irish History back in fourth.
“When she hits the front she had a look around, and with Frankie you never think you’ve won until you pass the post because he always has something in reserve in the last 100 metres,” Soumillon said. “I had nothing left and had to concentrate all the way to the line.”
Giofra, who chased home Cirrus Des Aigles, the Dubai Sheema Classic winner, last time out, will now head for the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in three week’s time.
Giofra’s long-term target is either the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October, or the Prix de l’Opera on the same card.
Gosden was delighted with Elusive Kate, who was having her first outing since finishing eighth at the Breeders’ Cup in November and said the runner-up would head to Deauville next month, while Joviality, owned by Princess Haya, finished last due to unsuitable going.
Julian Smart saddled the first two home in the UK Arabian Derby, the President of the UAE Cup race on the card.
Mkeefa, ridden by Neil Callan, led home Rathowan, ridden by Silvestre de Sousa, who won on Fullbright earlier in the day for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed.
Smart is based in Lambourn with 17 horses this summer.
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