Hong Kong trainer Derek Cruz set the theme for Thursday morning's International Challengers press conference at Newmarket (UK) when he declared that 'avoiding Black Caviar' was the sole reason his top sprinter Joy And Fun had been targeted at the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.
"Staying away from Black Caviar," he said when asked why he'd opted for the 1000 metre sprint rather than the Diamond Jubilee (1200m) four days later, "she's such a very smart horse and will just win again. No point taking her on."
Fellow Hong Kong trainer Danny Shum, who has Little Bridge - to be ridden by Aussie jockey Zac Purton - in the King's Stand, echoed Cruz's view.
"The King's Stand is a good race for my horse because 1000 metres down the straight is perfect for him but it's also good because she (Black Caviar) isn't there," Shum said.
Fawzi Nass, trainer of G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Krypton Factor, is taking on Black Caviar in the Diamond Jubilee but doing so a little reluctantly.
"Unfortunately we do have to take her on. My horse is well but it will take one hell of a horse to beat her," the Bahrain trainer said.
Ortensia's trainer Paul Messara happily concedes that his mare, for all her quality, is not in the same class as Black Caviar. However he did not rule out the possibility of Ortensia backing up from the King's Stand to the Diamond Jubilee.
"I would contemplate backing up," he said. "If Ortensia won or ran very well and the ground was looking good for the Saturday then I'd certainly consider it."
The state of the ground was the other major talking point of the morning. Asoct track manager Chris Stickles said the going was currently good to soft after 55 mm of rain from Sunday to Tuesday morning.
"The forecast is for another 20 mm of rain between now and the weekend but the straight course drains very well and hopefully it will be in reasonable shape for opening day," Stickles said.
The last word on the Ascot prospects of the overseas challengers was as follows:
Paul Messara (Ortensia) - "We got here as early as we could and she's settled in and acclimatised well. She travelled brilliantly from Dubai to here and I'm very happy with her. The rain is cause for some concern as she's definitely better on top of the ground which enables her to use her devastating turn of foot."
Jeff O'Connor (Black Caviar) - "Everything's gone to plan. Everything we can control we have controlled and that's half the battle. The other half is, of course, the race and you never know what might happen on raceday but we're as confident as you'd like to be and we won't be using the ground as an excuse for her."
Derek Cruz (Joy And Fun) - "He likes firm ground. He could handle it a little bit soft, say yielding. He's acclimatised well and been striding out very well in his work. His run was very good behind Ortensia in Dubai after he half missed the start and didn't have much luck. On Tuesday, I'd like him to able to take a sit and be produced in the last 100 metres."
Danny Shum (Little Bridge) - "I made a mistake when I put the blinkers on him and now he's won his past two (starts) very well after we took them off. He is good at 1000 metres down the straight and I think he will be spot on for Tuesday. In Hong Kong the ground is usually good to firm so that's what we would prefer. I will walk the track on Monday and make an assessment after that."
Fawzi Nass (Krytpon Factor) - "To win in such a fashion as he did in Dubai was a bit of a surprise but he is a very good horse. In Singapore he didn't travel well and the ground was too soft for him. I'm hoping we have a nice summer week. It's true that we still have to see him perform at this level on the turf but I think he will cope."