For the trainer of the second-fastest mare in Australia, finding Black Caviar in Britain is akin to going halfway round the world for a holiday, only to discover your impossible neighbours from home on the adjacent hotel balcony.
"Running against Black Caviar is a waste of time," Paul Messara said yesterday. "It's like banging your head against a brick wall."
He is suitably relieved, then, that the record-breaking champion is waiting until the final day of Royal Ascot before introducing her sensational speed to a new hemisphere. That leaves Ortensia a clear run at the King's Stand Stakes on Tuesday, though Messara could yet turn her out again against Black Caviar over the sixth furlong in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes – and certainly intends to take her on in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket next month.
Whatever happens, Ortensia has already put her young trainer on the map, having swept from last to first in a big sprint on Dubai World Cup night in March. But he has long been steeped in the sport, from boyhood until establishing a stable since 2005 alongside his parents' Arrowfield Stud in New South Wales.
He was duly able to serve an apprenticeship among high achievers at every point of the Turf's compass, including a stint with David Loder in Newmarket.
Now, at 34, he is back in town – rangy, smart and ambitious – and hoping to profit from an Ascot reconnaissance with Alverta two years ago. That mare travelled badly, but progressed from her spin at the royal meeting to finish an excellent third in the July Cup.
"They're different types," he said. "Alverta was very tough but Ortensia is perhaps a bit more brilliant at the shorter distance. Alverta lost a lot of weight on the way, and so we decided to bring this one here as early as we could, to let her acclimatise. It also helped to break the journey up, in Dubai. She is in top order."
The seven-year-old has been thoroughly rejuvenated by Messara, who took custody of her last year.
"She had a few issues when she arrived, both temperamentally and physically," he said. "We're not in a metropolitan base, and I think she has enjoyed the change of environment. She's very much a confidence type of horse, a mood horse. And she seems as relaxed as I've ever seen her."
She can borrow further confidence from her jockey, Craig Williams, who rode four winners in Japan the other day. Certainly he showed icy nerve in Dubai.
"A lot of people would have been panicking, where he was," Messara said. "But all I'd told him was that when he did make his move, to make sure he had clean running – and that's what he did."
Messara is concerned by a forecast for further rain this weekend.
"She has that devastating turn of foot and slow ground just takes some of that dash away," he said. But there is a still bigger cloud on the horizon. "Black Caviar will win for fun," Messara declared. "In my lifetime I've never seen anything that got close to her. And she's been doing it against good horses. She's the Usain Bolt of horseracing."
Chris McGrath Nap
Jocasta (2.40 Sandown) Henry Candy excels in bringing along young sprinters and this one looks very well treated for her handicap debut after a stylish maiden win on soft ground.
Hi There (2.30 Mslbr'gh) Shaped well on both runs for Richard Fahey after being gelded, not given a pointlessly hard race once caught in traffic here last time.
Where the money's going
Opinion Poll is 5-1 from 6-1 with William Hill for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot next week, while William Buick is 7-1 from 10-1 to be the meeting's top jockey.Reuse content