Get set to doff your cap to these Aussie raiders

Hat-trick is on the Royal Ascot cards as Star Witness, Hinchinbrook and So You Think have the speed to stun the Poms

It is slightly depressing that a major sporting fixture can be most immediately identified in public consciousness by the dress code for spectators.

But, at Ascot this week, hats will be worn, as they have been since the first meeting at the Berkshire course in 1711. A racing certainty, though, is that none will have been of the corked variety of affectionate stereotype. When Queen Anne founded her racecourse, the visit of the first Englishman to Terra Australis, James Cook, was still 59 years in the future. And, before the adventof the white man, there were no horses in Australia. The first equines to set foot on the continent arrived with Governor Phillip and the First Fleet in 1788.

Obviously, in 300 years, the development of the sport has progressed on both sides of the world. The racing and breeding industries in Australia and New Zealand have been producing world-class competitors for some time, even if their forays to these parts were once limited and their excellence was largelyunappreciated, notwithstanding Balmerino's excellent second in the 1977 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Australian sprinters are now acknowledged as collectively the best on the planet. But it was only eight years ago that Choisir announced them as such by sensationally taking both top-level Royal Ascot contests in his division: the King's Stand Stakes on the meeting's first day and the Golden Jubilee Stakes on the last. Where he led, others followed, with wins for Takeover Target, Miss Andretti, Scenic Blast and Starspangledbanner.

Down Under, blindingly fast high-class horses are as ubiquitous as kangaroos. And, like another Aussie trademark, they keep coming back. This year's wizards from Oz are the four-year-olds Star Witness, with Tuesday's King's Stand Stakes as his prime target, and Hinchinbrook, bound for the Golden Jubilee Stakes on Saturday. Both have been based in Newmarket for their build-up to their raid and seem to have taken their 38-hour door-to-door journey to Suffolk in their powerful strides.

But then the breed-em-rugged idea of the Australian athlete is not a cliché without foundation. Sunshine brings benefits to equine, as well as human, development, from the hours horses can spend outside soaking up the rays to its effect on the very oomph-filled grain they eat. The Danny O'Brien-trained Star Witness is favourite for Tuesday's five-furlong dash and may also take in the six-furlong feature five days later. The colt goes into the fray off the back of a flop at Flemington in March, for which O'Brien blames Jeremy Clarkson and another form of horsepower. "There was a Top Gear rally, with cars at full throttle from first thing, near where he was stabled," he said. "The noise was unbelievable and by race-time he was a mess. But he was super-impressive in a barrier trial just beforehe got on the plane."

The King's Stand and Golden Jubilee are just two of seven Group 1 contests during a week which spreads nearly £4 million over 30 races in five days. But the purses are not the only draw for Star Witness and Hinchinbrook. They are, perhaps alarminglyfor the rest of the world, not even the best of their ilk back home; the sensational unbeaten mare Black Caviar, Hinchinbrook's Peter Moody stablemate, and the gelding Hay List are demonstrably better.

"The two that are here are the best sprint colts in Australia," said Moody's assistant Jeff O'Connor, "but they are not getting the chance to win at the top level. "

The appearance on Wednesday of Australia's best colt in any division is also part of that bigger picture. The mighty middle-distance star So You Think, formerly with Bart Cummings, has transferred to Co Tipperary-based Aidan O'Brien to maximise his potential as a future progenitor in both hemispheres.

Already an early favourite to go one better than Balmerino at Longchamp in October, he will bid to enhance his reputation in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes. The imposing five-year-old is still a national icon back home. And three Australian winners at Royal Ascot would be some hat-trick.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own