Australia's forgotten Ascot raider is ready to shine in the King's Stand Stakes
Trainer Paul Messara has devoted much of his time and energy to rejuvenating multiple Group 1 winning mare Ortensia since she joined his team nine months ago and is "quietly confident" that will be further rewarded when she tackles the King's Stand Stakes (1000m) at Royal Ascot next Tuesday.
The six-year-old Testa Rossa mare is unbeaten in three starts for Messara - progressing from Flemington in Cup week to Western Australia's Ascot to Meydan in Dubai.
She's travelled much further now but the task ahead is not dissimilar that which she faced in Dubai and she's in "the same shape" according to the trainer.
In the Al Quoz Sprint (1000m) in Dubai, Ortensia overcame what looked to be an impossible start to score a barnstorming 1.3 lengths win over one of the UK's better sprinters Sole Power.
Of note is that Sole Power then returned home and finished a length closer to Bated Breath, the top rated local runner in the King's Stand, in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on 26 May.
"There's likely to be a capacity field in the King's Stand so luck and the draw will be factors and there's probably more depth to the race than she confronted in Dubai but the standard is similar," Messara said.
"I hope she draws well, preferably with the speed and I hope the rain stays away because she's at her best on good ground but that also applies to several of the other good chances."
Bated Breath, Sole Power and the Hong Kong-trained Al Quoz third placegetter Joy And Fun are among the other contenders who prefer good ground, while rain would advantage likely hopefuls Wizz Kid and Secret Asset.
"If the ground is good I'd be reasonably optimistic about her chances," Messara said, "and some give would probably still be OK. I just wouldn't want a really soft track."
"We are race two on day one so you'd hope it wouldn't be too bad. It's a good race. The Hong Kong horses will run well, you can't rule out Bated Breath or Sole Power and Wizz Kid would come right into if it's wet but I'm very happy with my mare.
"She had a really good stretch on the track on Wednesday morning and came through it well. We've followed the same pattern with her work as we did in Dubai and I'd say she's in as good a shape now as she was then.
"She's settled in well; she looks well; she's bright in the eye. Maybe she has a tiny bit more coat than you'd ideally want but a couple more days of sunshine could help take care of that. She's developed into a big, powerful girl and I'm really looking forward to Tuesday's race."
Ortensia was shipped from Dubai to England much earlier than other international visitors and she has acclimatised well.
"She's thrived here. The stimulus of a new environment has the endorphins flowing. She's developed, she's got a big back-end and is very powerful now. She's a lot heavier than when I first started working with her and she's the soundest she's been in that time," Messara said.
"The trick has been to keep her enthused about racing. We haven't pushed her too much on the track. I want her to be ready to explode on raceday and I'm quite happy to have her going into the race a fraction underdone."
Messara believes that his previous experience campaigning Alverta in England in 2010 - she was placed in the July Cup at Newmarket in two UK runs - has served him well.
"I've definitely got a better handle now on which tracks to use and how to use them," he said.
Ortenisa is likely to stay in the UK after the Royal meeting and, all being well, progress to the July Cup at Newmarket on 14 July and the Nunthorpe Stakes at York a few weeks later.
- Racing Victoria