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Black Caviar - Royal Ascot here we come!

"Royal Ascot here we come" by "Carbine" (Andrew Beattie)

Royal Ascot here we come – it is Saturday February 18th and equine freak sprinter Black Caviar has continued her domination of the Australian turf, scoring her 19th career victory in the Group 1 $750,000 Lightning Stakes 1000m at Flemington racecourse in Melbourne. Earlier in the day her 2 year old half-brother, the Nathan Tinkler owned and Hawkes trained All Too Hard, easily won the listed Talindert Stakes on debut. Co-incidentally the colt was foaled on the writer’s birthday, September 21st, 2009.

Back to his big sister, the champion, and the big five-year-old dark brown mare was given a real race by just as equally big sprinter Hay List, who took her on for the majority of the scamper down the straight six at the home of the Melbourne Cup. So much so that Black Caviar finished just .03 seconds outside the course record of 55.50 which was set by good sprinter Special way back in 1988. Winning trainer Peter Moody said the John McNair trained Hay List was the only horse that had made Black Caviar fight. ‘‘He''s a great horse but he''s just unfortunate that he''s in an era where he''s run into a flying freak, I suppose,'''' Moody said, then added ''''She''s the best horse and we weren''t going to be dictated by horses that weren''t as good as her and Luke rode her accordingly.''''

Hay List, with former South African Glyn Schofield aboard, took up the running in the early stages of the race but with Black Caviar coming back in distance from her easy victory in the 1400 metres of last Saturday’s Orr Stakes at Caulfield, jockey Luke Nolen ensured he did not drift back on the mare and she settled close up on the inside of Hay List with Buffering not far away on the inside.

Hay List still held a long neck margin at the 500m, with the Queenslander Buffering soon to be under the persuader at the 400m mark. Nolen started to urge Black Caviar along by shaking the reins at her and showing her the whip and by the time the horses got to the 250m post she had Hay List’s measure and Nolen eased her down, untouched, over the final 50m to win by 1 3/4 lengths with Buffering finishing third, two lengths away. This was the same trifecta as when she won the Group 1 BTC Cup at Doomben as a 4 year old.

Black Caviar ran her sectional between the 600m and 400m in an amazing 9.98 seconds, running the last 600 in 31.82 seconds, probably never been done before by a thoroughbred. The win also took the unbeaten mare''s prize-money past the $5 million mark and matched the modern era world record for consecutive wins held by the legendary American mare Zenyatta and also equaling the long-standing Australasian record held by Kiwi horses Desert Gold between 1915 and 1917 and Gloaming 1919 to 1921.

She has gone to the paddock for a brief let-up before having her farewell race in Australia before taking on the world’s best at Royal Ascot in June. All of the major metropolitan race clubs are vying for her running at their track to be a huge crowd puller as she attempts to make it 20 wins on end – Brisbane, Adelaide has two Group ones that would suit, The Robert Sangster and the Goodwood, Sydney and Melbourne are hovering too.

What will she run in at Ascot? There is the Day 1 (Tuesday) 5 furlong G1 King’s Stand Stakes and on the Saturday the most likely 6 furlong G1 Golden Jubilee during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. She could also stay on in England for a crack at the July Cup at Newmarket.

The possibility of every race fancier’s dream, a match, also on the Tuesday, in the mile race, the G1 Queen Anne Stakes against the unbeaten Frankel, considered by the experts to be the best horse in the world, was bandied about now that the mare has shown she can step up in distance as well as sprint, but that may have to wait a year as he is likely to be stepping up to 10 furlongs in the G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

Whatever will be decided by trainer Peter Moody and the mare’s band of lucky owners Mr. G J Wilkie, Mrs. K J Wilkie, Werrett Bloodstock Pty Ltd, Mr. C H Madden, Mrs. J Madden, Mrs. P A Hawkes, Mr. D M Taylor and Mrs. J Taylor.
Moody gave the best line of all about a clash between the pair late in 2011. "They might meet one day, but it might be on a dark night and he might be climbing on top of her," Moody quipped about their breeding possibilities.

Racing commenced at Ascot way back in 1711 and every year Royal Ascot in June is attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and various members of the British Royal Family, arriving each day in a horse-drawn carriage with the Royal procession taking place at the start of each race day and the raising of the Queen''s Royal Standard. It is a major event in the British social calendar.
Black Caviar will have to be at her best in whatever race(s) is chosen as over the two hundred years many champions have graced the hallowed turf at Royal Ascot and the sprint races are on an undulating track that puts a thoroughbred’s stamina to test.

Fortunately Royal Ascot has been kind to Australian visitors and the King’s Stand Stakes over 5 furlongs on the Tuesday, day 1, has given we colonials some success in the last decade -

2003 Choisir – ridden by Irishman Johnny Murtagh – trained by Paul Perry from Newcastle.
2006 Takeover Target - Jay Ford – trained by part-time taxi driver Joe Janiak from Queanbeyan.
2007 Miss Andretti - Craig Newitt – trained by Hall of Famer Lee Freedman.
2009 Scenic Blast - Steven Arnold - Daniel Morton from Western Australia.
2011 Star Witness – unlucky runner-up for Steven Arnold and Danny O’Brien having botched the start.

In 1967 the King’s Stand was won by top sprinter Be Friendly, owned by now retired racing commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan, who I had the great honour of spending some time with last year at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, Paris. I had seen Be Friendly win the Ayr Gold Cup (William Hill Gold Cup for sponsorship purposes), now the richest sprint handicap in Europe, the year before in 1966.

Black Caviar’s likely date with fate is the Golden Jubilee over 6 furlongs on the Saturday, the final day of 5, and this race has been generous to Australia too -
2003 Choisir - Johnny Murtagh & Paul Perry pulling off the sprint double.
2010 Starspangledbanner – once Aussie, then had the luck of the Irish with Johnny Murtagh and Aidan O’Brien.
2011 Star Witness – again an unlucky 3rd on a not to his liking soft track.

Anyway, following attending the races at The Curragh in Ireland, yours truly will be there at Royal Ascot to witness Black Caviar come up trumps and win her 21st successive race and remain unbeaten, and be probably considered unbeatable, barring accidents.

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