x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Ortensia wants for nothing in Royal Ascot preparations

The Al Quoz Sprint winner is slated to run in the King's Stand Stakes on June 19.

Ortensia, wearing No 10, won the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night in March. Caren Firouz / Reuters
Ortensia, wearing No 10, won the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night in March. Caren Firouz / Reuters

Newmarket, England // The last time Paul Messara sent a horse from Australia to race at Royal Ascot it was a near-disaster, but the trainer has learnt from that experience and Ortensia, his Al Quoz Sprint winner, has bedded down well in England since arriving last month.

Two seasons ago Messara shipped Alverta to England to contest the Golden Jubilee Stakes at the Royal Meeting but the mare lost 40kgs during a gruelling 30-hour flight and could finish only 14th to Starspangledbanner.

With extensive recuperation after the race and an easy training regime, Alverta put most of the weight back on and managed to push her conqueror to within three-quarters of a length a month later when third in the July Cup.

Ortensia's journey was broken up by a scintillating victory at Meydan Racecourse in March, beating nine individual Group 1 winners in the process and since arriving in Newmarket she has thrived.

"We brought our own food over this time," Leah Gavranich, Messara's travelling head groom, said. "We shipped it over on a cargo flight. We've bought 18 bags over from Australia and it was here on arrival from Dubai. I hope she realises how much effort we've put in for her."

Gavranich's experience extends to moving Messara's horses all over Australia, which can involve flights of up to 14 hours from the Arrowfield training centre in Scone, New South Wales. She also accompanied Alverta on her long journey.

"Being an older mare, she was so set in her ways," Gavranich said of Alverta. "She was just so nervous and she wouldn't be the first to not like the food in England."

Ortensia is slated to run in the King's Stand Stakes on June 19 and if all goes according to plan the seven-year-old mare would stay on in England for the July Cup at Newmarket on July 14 and possibly even for a tilt at the Nunthorpe Stakes at York on August 24.

Ortensia is part of a large Australian raiding party that is headed by Black Caviar, who won her 20th consecutive race at the weekend.

In the King's Stand itself Ortensia will be joined by Temple Of Boom, who won a Group 1 handicap at Randwick Racecourse 10 days ago and Foxwedge, who it is rumoured changed hands for A$10 million (Dh38m) before running below par in the Group 1 Darley T J Smith Stakes last month. Foxwedge was found to have a throat infection after that race and along with Ortensia and Hoof It, owned by Lee Westwood, the golfer, the three are considered to be the most likely winners of the five-furlong race.

"The other Australian horses will arrive just a couple of weeks before Royal Ascot but we would have been here two months," Gavranich added. "We've got the hard bit of the trip, to Dubai, out of the way and she did so well there - the sun on her back really helped her.

"Foxwedge might not be seasoned enough for a trip like this. I don't want to be confident, but if you ask anyone in Australia and they would say we would give him a towelling. We're not scared of anyone."

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