Black Caviar Up Close

By Briana Mott

"Too easy" were the words of choice after Black Caviar's first run over 1,400 meters. The 5-year-old powerhouse that has taken over sprint races in Australia silenced her doubters on Feb. 11 by adding another 200 meters to her winning distance range. She ran against some of the best including the Caulfield Cup winning mare, Southern Speed, the million dollar-winning colt Playing God and Efficient, the only other horse to win both the AAMI Victorian Derby (Aus-I) and Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) since the Australian legend Pharlap. Unfortunately for these horses, they were no match for the mighty mare. As she bumped her impressive record up to 18-0 with earnings exceeding Aus$4.5 million, the impressive crowd showed its support by the sea of pink and black polka dots. Everything from ties, hats, t-shirts, and dresses in her silks colors, people flocked from every corner of Melbourne and beyond to see another page in history.

Black Caviar in saddling paddock

Caulfield fashion

As an American traveling in Australia, I know how lucky I am to see this fantastic animal show her talent. I first witnessed her on a Friday night at Mooney Valley racecourse when she sauntered past the wire to win the Australian Stakes (Aus-II) over 1,200 meters. One of the smaller racecourses in Melbourne, Moonee Valley had to open the gates up with free admission as they feared the growing crowd would not be able to get through before she raced. It is easy to say this mare brings people to the tracks just as our great mare Zenyatta did. The next Friday night, the same Moonee Valley was unrecognizable compared to her race night. On that evening the mounting yard was barely "standing room only" as she paraded before her adoring fans, but that next week it seemed a ghost town.  

 Caulfield grandstand

On Feb. 11, again she brought the crowd to the track. Children wearing "I [heart] BC" T-shirts, men in suits with pink and black polka dot ties, and the black and pink flags waved all over Caulfield's grand stands.  Huge banner's lined the stands with such words as, "Black Caviar: Gone in 57 seconds," "OMG BC!," and "Black Caviar Made in Victoria." As each race passed, you could feel the energy and excitement build just a little bit more as the sixth race closed in. Leaving the gate with the best jump she has ever had, Black Caviar stayed close to the leaders. Rounding the turn she began to ease up alongside the leaders, and as the crowds cheers began to heighten she unleashed her trademark blistering turn of foot resulting in an astounding 10.6-second furlong, which gave her a three-length lead as she coasted to the finish line.

This special mare has yet to stretch herself out in a race as the jockey has never been required to use the whip to call on her reserves. Black Caviar remains the best sprinter in Australia and as many would say the world. As her trainer Peter Moody prepares her for the foreign meets at Ascot and possibly Dubai he talks of staying at or under the 1,400-meter mark. Her next achievement could happen sooner than we think as Moody talks about bringing her back Feb. 18 at Flemington Racecourse for the 1,000-meter Coolmore Lightning Stakes (Aus-I) followed by the Futurity Stakes (G1) at Caulfield on the 25th of February. Wins in both these races would result in a record breaking 20-0 career never achieved in Australasia.

As a racing fan from the younger generation, I really only have one horse to compare the experiences I've witnessed so far with Black Caviar. Our most recent American racehorse legend, the great mare Zenyatta. I watched as she grew her record to 19-0 and saw her live as she took on the 2010 Breeder's Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. I've never felt such electricity as I did in those stands as she rounded the last turn onto the stretch.

Just as Zenyatta brought fans to the tracks as well as their televisions, Black Caviar does the same in her home country. As "Z" was and still is loved by everyone in the United States, Black Caviar or better known by her stable name Nellie is cherished by young children and grown men alike here in Australia. As her fan numbers continue to grow on Facebook, it's easy to see that what Zenyatta did for the American racing is being mirrored by Black Caviar here in Australia.

American race goers looked at Zenyatta as just what our industry needed to get people interested once again. Although very different industries and horses, Black Caviar and Zenyatta are two champions that help the racing world grow in success. We all know that these champions don't come around very often and they need to be cherished and celebrated. This is exactly what I will be doing come Feb. 18 if she steps out to equal the Australasian record at 19-0, the same mark as that of our own great mare Zenyatta.

An interview with Black Caviar's jockey Luke Nolan, prior to the Goup I Lightning Stakes.

[brightcove videoid="1454268688001"]

Editor's Note: Black Caviar tied the record for consecutive victories in Australasia and almost set a course standard in the process when she won the group I Lightning Stakes at Flemington Feb. 18 on six days’ rest. The still undefeated daughter of Bel Esprit broke alertly in the straight 1,000-meter stakes (about five furlongs) but ended up between two others in a speed duel. Hay List held a narrow lead until the final eighth of a mile, but jockey Luke Nolen asked Black Caviar for run and she responded to pull away by about 1 3/4 lengths.

All photographs taken by Briana Mott.

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