Black Caviar on track to become racing royalty
Sydney Morning Herald, Mark Webster, June 5, 2012
Australia's mighty mare, Black Caviar, will soon make the long journey to Britain's Royal Ascot with a legion of fans following in her jet stream. She has conquered the best in Australia and leaves our shores undefeated and officially ranked the world's best sprinter.
Australia has a reputation for breeding the best sprinting thoroughbreds in the world and with prizemoney in Australia far superior to that on offer in Britain, some are questioning whether it's worth the risk.
From my perspective the answer is simple: it's time for her coronation.
Royal Ascot is a right royal affair. The Queen arrives daily via horse and carriage, accompanied by much pomp and ceremony. After all, this is home to the world's best racehorses competing at the highest level and many race in the royal silks. Over the past 20 years the British royal family has been joined by royals from the Middle East, adding to the mystique and prestige of the event.
It's typical of our Australian culture to challenge tradition and seek recognition, particularly if it involves beating the British in a sport they invented. But horse racing in particular is a massive challenge. There are all sorts of risks in taking a horse from Australia in the belly of a 747 to compete against the world's best.
For this reason, the achievements of Newcastle-based trainer Paul Perry and his flashy chestnut colt Choisir in 2003 were remarkable.
Choisir broke all records, winning the King's Stand Stakes and Golden Jubilee Stakes in the space of four days. He was the first Australian raider to win at the highest level at Royal Ascot, setting a new course record and placing the spotlight on the ever-improving Australian thoroughbred industry.
Perry and Choisir's owner, Terry Wallace, spent a long time chatting with the Queen during the trophy presentation, reflecting on the enormity of their achievements.
Choisir was purchased as a yearling colt from the Inglis Sydney Classic Sale in 2001 for just $55,000. After his feats at Royal Ascot, he was sold as a stallion prospect to Coolmore Stud for a remarkable $25 million.
Others have followed in his footsteps every year since. They include Takeover Target, Miss Andretti and Starspangledbanner.
The latter is a son of Choisir who emulated his father by winning in impressive style at Royal Ascot and a month later became the first Australian horse to win the July Stakes in Newmarket. Once again, his original owners made a handsome profit, turning the $120,000 they paid for him as a yearling in Melbourne into $10 million before he even entered the starting gates at Royal Ascot.
The remarkable thing about all of the Australian raiders of Royal Ascot over the past 10 years is their ownership. They were all purchased as yearlings in Australia by everyday Australians who have a love of horse racing. Their owners include, among others, a tuna fisherman and a potato farmer - no royals and no aristocrats. That's the beauty of horse racing in Australia.
When Black Caviar thunders down the straight on June 23 in the Group One Diamond Jubilee against the best in the world, she carries the spirit and hope of all Australians. Others have come before her but none have arrived undefeated. She is entitled to be crowned our first Queen of the Turf.
Mark Webster is the managing director of thoroughbred auctioneers William Inglis & Son. Inglis sold Black Caviar to her current owners for $210,000 at the 2008 Melbourne Inglis Premier Yearling sales.