x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Ortensia 'agitated' before Ascot

Al Quoz sprint winner finished ninth after she got upset in the pre-parade ring and broke out into quite a big sweat, says trainer.

Ortensia, ridden by Craig Williams, won the Al Quoz Sprint race on Dubai World Cup night. Stephen Hindley / AP Photo
Ortensia, ridden by Craig Williams, won the Al Quoz Sprint race on Dubai World Cup night. Stephen Hindley / AP Photo

Connections behind Ortensia hope that the more serene and pastoral setting of the July Course at Newmarket will help the mare become the first Australian-trained horse to win the July Cup on Saturday.

There were 46,000 racegoers on the first day at Royal Ascot last month when Ortensia failed to build on her success in the Al Quoz sprint at Meydan Racecourse.

Although Ortensia had beaten several of the runners in the King Stand Stakes field, she could only finish ninth in the five-furlong Group 1 sprint after getting troubled by the razzamatazz.

"Prior to the King's Stand she didn't seem to handle the environment. She got upset in the pre-parade ring and broke out into quite a big sweat," Paul Messara, the trainer, said.

"By the time of the race she was very revved up and agitated and had run her race before she had even got there."

From Choisir in 2003 to Star Witness 12 months ago, Australian sprinters have failed to win the July Cup, despite flourishing at Royal Ascot.

Most Australian challengers at Royal Ascot over the past nine years have arrived on the back of a recent prep run and Leah Gavranich, the travelling head lass to Messara, suggested that perhaps the lack of recent competitive edge also contributed to the underwhelming performance.

"She also got very heated in the saddling yard and was a terror to saddle," she said. "We would have done nothing differently but maybe after nine weeks she was a little fresh. She was very tight in her back the next day and it was obvious that it had taken its toll on her."

Last season there were 10,736 racegoers at the picturesque July Course on July Cup day, which was an improvement on the 9,271 the previous year.

The seven-year-old mare has flourished under Messara's care in the countryside surroundings of his Arrowfield training centre, having struggled in the more metropolitan environment as she got older under Tony Noonan.

Messara missed Ortensia's final serious workout along the July Course last week as he was in transit from Australia.

Ortensia worked the full six furlongs under Michael Hills, while Gavranich looked on riding a lead horse.

It was the second time Ortensia had worked along the course and Messara revealed that Gavranich had also put her charge through a paddock schooling on each visit.

"We've had a couple of practices here which have been great and she's done well," Messara added. "She's done a good bit of work here and we're hoping she will be a much settled horse on the day. We are very pleased with her going into the race."

Ortensia was declared on Monday alongside 20 others, including Dandy Boy, the Dubai World Cup Carnival regular, who was supplemented at the cost of £30,000, while Kypton Factor, the Dubai Golden Shaheen winner, could also run.

Elsewhere, Frankie Dettori carried the Olympic flame on horseback along Ascot racecourse today.

The Godolphin jockey, who was at the British Grand Prix at the weekend, rode Monsignor, an ex-National Hunt horse, along the track, where he famously won all seven races on a card in 1996.

"I've had many memorable days riding into the winners' enclosure at Ascot but the reception I received today was unlike anything I've experienced before – it was incredible. The atmosphere was amazing with so many people here, including my entire family, which made it all the more special. It is a day I will never forget and I can't wait for the Games to begin."

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