Australian sprinters have a reputation for unadulterated speed, but the latest to plunder a big prize on these shores did so despite being unable to cope with the early pace.
Ortensia's unfeasible burst from the rear, under an admirably composed William Buick, secured a dramatic success in the Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York yesterday – and so replicated a very similar performance in Dubai in March.
That had confirmed the mare's relish for fast ground, and her adventurous connections were duly disappointed when a wet summer extended from Royal Ascot to the July Cup. She had bounced back at Goodwood last time, but this fast, flat track on slowing ground made it seem impossible that she might yet get involved when still struggling at halfway. Buick, however, allowed her to find her stride and did not go into overdrive even as she began to close along the far rail. Spirit Quartz had just wrested control from the trail-blazing Hamish McGonagall when Ortensia pounced to get up by a neck.
"I don't know how she did it, to be honest," Buick confessed. "They went very fast and I was a long way back, but I could hold a straight course the whole way and she's so much better when she doesn't have to be switched. I don't think I've been quicker in a race before, and they got her off the bridle, but then she hits that sixth gear. The ground is a little bit loose, as well, so that probably didn't help her early on – we were wheel-spinning a bit. But she showed today she's superior to the sprinters over here."
Paul Messara, her trainer, had been exasperated by renewed downpours the previous day. "I thought we were coming here with no chance," he admitted. He will now train her for the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock on Saturday week.
The host county celebrated success in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Gimcrack Stakes when Blaine followed up his debut success here last month. His trainer, Kevin Ryan, is likely to confine the colt to just one more start at two. "He's still quite weak," he reasoned. "His work has been exceptional and I was quietly confident. But he's going to develop – and he's got great heart. He's very relaxed, and loves what he's doing."
CHRIS MCGRATH'S NAP
Harrison's Cave (3.40 York)
Oxford Charley (4.35 Newmarket)