THE key to Society Rock and Ryan Moore’s chances in today’s Darley July Cup will almost certainly be the start. If the James Fanshawe-trained sprinter had not missed the break in Royal Ascot’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the fast-finishing Society Rock could have overhauled Australia’s wonder-mare Black Caviar.
Instead, connections had to settle for fifth place but the likely soft ground at Newmarket could suit the five-year-old more than most – market leaders Bated Breath and Strong Suit could both be withdrawn from the Group One sprint, the latest leg of the Qipco Champions Series.
“He’s handled good to soft ground at Ascot and it was fairly soft when he was second to Moonlight Cloud in the Prix Maurice de Gheest,” said Fanshawe. “The horse seems in good shape and we’ve done some practising in the stalls, so we just hope he goes on the ground now.”
While Black Caviar has returned to Australia, there is still a major challenger from Down Under in the shape of Paul Messara’s Ortensia.
A Group One winner in her homeland and in the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night, the seven-year-old ran no sort of race in the the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot after becoming worked up beforehand.
Messara, who has booked William Buick for the riding duties, is expecting a much calmer mare to show up, but does have concerns – like many – about the ground.
“Her work has been up to standard. We expected her to run well in the King’s Stand, but it wasn’t to be,” he said. “It’s probably something we couldn’t have anticipated, she got very upset in the prelims, but that’s racing.
“I’m certain she’ll be up there at the finish if she can run up to her best.”