Heavy weather clouds Black Caviar tilt at Royal Ascot
ALAN LEE From: The Times June 12, 2012 1:46PM
THE clamour over Black Caviar grows louder by the day but Peter Moody, who trains the unbeaten Australian mare, is keeping an uncharacteristically low profile.
Moody has delayed his journey to England, avoiding much of the media build-up to Royal Ascot, and he will not like what he sees on arrival.
Ascot endured 40mm of rain in 18 hours yesterday and further downpours are forecast for Friday. Black Caviar has never encountered soft ground in her 21-race career and this seems sure to provide an unknown dimension when she starts at odds-on for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, a week on Saturday.
Chris Stickels, the clerk of the course, has never known such challenging weather before the royal meeting.
"There has been nothing like this in my memory," he said last night.
"We've already had almost double our average June rainfall and it's only the 11th of the month."
Royal Ascot has not started on good-to-soft, or worse, since 1998 but Stickels believes it is inevitable next week.
"It was soft today, with heavy places on the round course," he said. "It does drain well here but I cannot believe we're going to start on anything other than slow ground."
This can only increase the strain on Moody as he prepares for the race that is dominating anticipation of the five-day fixture. Black Caviar has bullied the best of Australasia into submission time after time but she now has to cope with long-distance travel and alien conditions.
Moody's meteoric rise as a trainer continued at the weekend. Back in Brisbane, his base before he moved his operation to Melbourne a decade ago, he won two group one races and a group two on Queensland's feature day of the season. "Coming home for the big day, this is as good as it gets," Moody said.
He passed 1600 career wins last week and is closing on 200 for this Australian season.
Jealous suggestions that he was preoccupied with Black Caviar may have prompted him to alter his travel plans to England and he is now not expected to arrive in Newmarket, where his mare is stabled, until Friday.
Ascot holds its annual media event for overseas connections the previous day and may privately be grateful that other runners from far-flung nations will now get some attention after a period when Black Caviar has relegated even Frankel to the shadows.
The Royal Enclosure is customarily at its quietest on the Saturday but Nick Smith, Ascot's head of communications, said yesterday that it is close to a sell-out.
"That is completely unprecedented and entirely down to how many Australians are coming," he said. "We have never experienced this kind of attention on a single horse."