International Group 1 winner Ortensia has recovered from her out of character Oakleigh Plate flop and will take her place in the Group 1 $1m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday.
Ortensia was having her first run back from an overseas campaign when only beating two runners home in the Group 1 $400,000 Sportingbet Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on February 23 and was subsequently found to have a slight fetlock injury when pulling up.
Trainer Paul Messara had originally indicated that Ortensia would head back to Sydney for races later in the Autumn but after the top class mare recovered from the hard run a decision was made to stay in Melbourne for the Newmarket.
Messara was also happy with the handicapper when he only gave the three time Group 1 winner 56.5kg in the Newmarket, a weight he was more than happy with.
“The weight in the Newmarket was very attractive. If she brings her A-game, she will be really competitive,” said Messara.
“I thought we would get a bit more weight than we did.
“With that weight, if she runs up to her work, she will be really competitive.”
Ortensia showed that she had recovered form a slight fetlock strain she suffered at Caulfield with a smart workout down the Flemington straight on Monday morning.
“The fetlock is fine. She is happy and healthy and I think that race has mentally switched her back on,” Messara said.
Top Melbourne jockey Dwayne Dunn will be having his first ride on Ortensia on Saturday after regular rider Craig Williams took the mount on Queensland three year old Better Than Ready when Messara thought he would bypass the Newmarket.
Messara was toying with the idea of going back to Dubai this month to give Oretnsia the chance of defending her crown in the Group 1 US$1m Al Quoz Sprint (1000m) at Meydan on March 30 but has decided to stay on in Australia.
The Al Quoz Sprint was the middle leg of Ortenisa’s three Group 1 wins and was sandwiched in between her win in the 2011 Group 1 $500,000 Crown Perth-Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot, Perth on November 24 and her victory down the straight at York in England in the Group 1 £250,000 The Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (5 furlongs).
A run in the Group 1 $1m Darley T J Smith (1200m) at Randwick on April 13 is also on the agenda, a race that is developing into the showcase feature of The BMW Sydney Carnival with super mare Black Caviar heading there along with Hay List and Group 1 bridesmaid Buffering.
Topweight Luckygray and fellow Western Australian sprinter Barakey are going into the Newmarket first up while Better Than Ready has come into calculations as a genuine lightweight chance after winning at Eagle Farm on February 23 and subsequently working well down the Flemington straight at Tuesday’s jump out session.
“He needed the hitout having missed work because of the rain at home, but it is good to be down here where the sunshine is,” trainer Kelly Schweida said.
“They say Queensland is the Sunshine State, but they might have to change that.
“He is right on target for Saturday.”
Luckygray and Barakey were also impressive Flemington track workers on Tuesday.