Royal Ascot may have been her final race
24 Jun 2012 | Australia’s great Black Caviar completed her twenty-second straight victory when winning the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) at Royal Ascot on Saturday, but she was below her best and may have run her final race.
Trainer Peter Moody hinted that was a possibility after she held on for a head and a neck victory over France’s Moonlight Cloud and Restiadargent. Moody said the mare appeared jaded, and if she does not show sparkle after returning home she could be retired.
Black Caviar’s jockey, Luke Nolen, stopped pushing the mare near the post, but as she began to falter he galvanised her one more time.
Moody said: “I believe she was probably out on her feet a furlong and a half out. She never travelled as keenly and strongly as she does at home and I had concerns half a mile out. Only her grit and ability got her home - Luke was trying to look after her, and while he nearly got caught short he got the job done.
“She just didn’t travel like she can, she didn’t have her ears pricked - I thought she was always in control of the race, but she wasn’t up on the bridle. You’ve seen her race at her lowest ebb - fortunately she got the job done - but that was the lowest ebb for ten or 12 starts. She just didn’t show the zip, and post-race she’s out on her feet so she’s done a tremendous job.
“This mare has carried us for a long time, but I was asked last night if she was at her absolute best and I said I don’t think she’s ever been to the races at that peak because she’s had a lot of niggly injuries - throw a ten and a half thousand mile trip into the mix and she’s done one hell of a job.
“She’s done Australia proud and she’s undefeated. Whether it’s by a quarter of an inch or a quarter of a furlong they are not going to give us any more [prize money]. She’s had a long season followed by a long trip, and I’ve said all week the owners are to be congratulated. This was always going to be the greatest risk of her career and for the last five or six runs we’ve been prepared to accept it might be her last. Hopefully that’s not the case today, but if she’s as tired and worn out when she gets home she may have graced the track for the final time.
“I won’t hesitate in any shape or form, but let’s not put the cart before the horse. We would love to bring her up for the spring at home and that’s been our intention which is why it’s never been about dominance, margins or ratings because we want to look after her as much as we can. If we had pushed for ratings her career might have been over eight or nine runs ago.
“I’m extremely proud of her - she’s been one hell of a horse who has carried us throughout her career. I’m slightly disappointed for your public that they haven’t seen how great this filly is and that will give doubting Thomases some material, but you don’t win 22 from 22 being moderate.
“I think I saw the finest performance I’ve ever seen on a racecourse on Tuesday in the winner Frankel. I think maybe if I’d had this mare here last year I would probably have said the same thing.
“Now we’re nearer the end rather than the start and she’s not getting any better - she’s a six-year-old by your time, five by ours, but I’m so proud of her.
“Australians are pretty resilient people and they will have been watching her in eight degrees and drizzle back at home, but while it was a little bit of heart-in-mouth stuff she didn’t let us down.”
Black Caviar’s owners came to Royal Ascot in force - with family and friends - and they head home sharing even deeper affection for their wonderful mare Black Caviar.
Pam Hawkes, who came up with the mare’s name and was the first to receive the winner’s trophy from The Queen, said: “A win is a win, and we’re not disappointed with the margin of victory.
“It was a surprise how close it was, and it must have been a surprise to the jockey, but I hope he’s not feeling bad about it. We don’t care about the margin and if she had been beaten we would have accepted it.
“We came to Royal Ascot prepared to lose and we’re going home winners. It’s never been about margins, it’s been about the mare.
“This has been like the grand final - she’s taken us on a marvellous journey. We have met The Queen twice in one day, and apart from the Duke of Edinburgh there cannot be many people who can say that. We’ve had a great day and it’s been very emotional.
“We’ve been prepared for the last run for the last 11 races, but she’s continued to do us proud and we can’t ask more of a horse.
“We know she’ll retire one day and there’s no way we can ever sell her on - we’ve been offered a lot of money for her, but it’s not about money. I think we’d like to breed from her and race the babies to create a Black Caviar dynasty.”
Mrs Kerryn Wilkie said: “I feel relieved - I knew she would do it and I knew Luke wouldn’t let us down. He eased on her and then went again and she got there.
“Guts and spirit - that’s her all the way, but she always makes that effort to win. On the third or fourth race of her career she stumbled at Flemington and hurt herself but still went on to victory.
“It’s been so exciting. Royal Ascot has looked after us all week - we came here on Tuesday and again on Thursday and we’re all here today with children, grandchildren and family and had a magic time. My heart is pumping. We met The Queen in the Royal Box and you cannot explain how that feels, and then we received the trophy from her which was very emotional.”
Mrs Wilkie’s daughter, Shannon, designed the Black Caviar colours of pink with black spots. She said: “I never thought I would come to Royal Ascot, let alone see the colours I designed all over the place.
“There are 150 in our group alone, and thousands of other Australians here and watching her at home. We’ve met so many people who wanted us to win. If you think of cricket and sports like that the British want to beat the Australians, but that wasn’t the case with her.”
Jockey Luke Nolen believed that British racegoers did not see the true Black Caviar.
“She wasn’t the same horse she usually is today,” said Nolen. “Her determination got her there.
“It’s a testing track and I maybe underestimated how gruelling the six furlongs is here. I didn’t have as much experience as other riders here and just let her coast. It was an error every apprentice is taught not to do but I got away with it today. She was still tough enough to win for us. When I was three-quarters of a length clear I thought I had done enough to win, I wasn’t easing, I just let her coast down and I’m lucky I came out of it at the better end.
“I just let her idle at the finish and maybe the big engine just shut itself down. I duly shit myself but she’s got a big neck but she doesn’t know how to get beat. When I relaxed on her she came back beneath me. I thought I’d done enough but I was pretty glad when I heard the crowd cheer.
“She’s now 22 from 22 and that’s what it should be all about, it would have been a travesty if she had got beat today. Imagine if she had got beat, I’d have probably been stabbed! I hope this doesn’t overshadow her winning.
“After her work at Newmarket on Tuesday, you’d say it would cut me another furlong and a half on the bridle but she has not brought it to the races today. I thought she was at her career best when I sat on her then. She was not the same horse as on 20 of her 21 last runs. She wasn’t her usual self and didn’t track up in the race and do my job for me. It has been a 36-hour box-to-box journey from Caulfield to Newmarket for her and that must have taken a bit out of her.
“The attention has blown my mind a bit, I’m very comfortable taking a back seat but she’s an ambassador for racing around the world. It’s a scrutiny that I’m very uncomfortable with but from being a part of Black Caviar I’m happy to burden myself with talking to the press.
“To have been part of it is incredible and hopefully she will continue in the spring but I’d say there’s only a very remote chance that she’ll come back over here.
“Peter Moody and his staff are the ones who need to be congratulated, I just point her in the right direction. She’s the best I’ve ridden and I may not live long enough to see another one like her.
“Relief is the first emotion after winning, the hysteria and party come later.”