Oh so close for Caviar's 22nd win
Unbeaten champion Black Caviar has conquered Royal Ascot in a heart-stopping finish
The margin may not have been quite what parochial Australians anticipated but nobody should sell sort the magnitude of Black Caviar's performance to remain unbeaten after 22 starts, particularly after travelling halfway around the world to do so.
In a heart-stopping finish to the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) at Royal Ascot overnight, Black Caviar held off French challenger and second favourite Moonlight Cloud by a head with outsider Restiadargent a neck back in third place.
“I'm extremely proud of her. She did Australia proud. She's got the job done as she always does and she's travelled 10,500 miles to do it this time,” declared trainer Peter Moody.
Although much will be written about jockey Luke Nolen's decision to ease her down over the final stages and provide Moonlight Cloud with a glint of hope, both he and Moody felt that the victory came despite the mare being below her best.
“I think she'd just had enough,” Moody said when asked whether his jockey had erred in easing her close to the line.
Nolen, when pressed on the same question said, “Maybe I underestimated how gruelling the six furlongs is here. I did let her idle in the last few strides and normally she just keeps flowing to the line but today her big engine shut down.
“It took me by surprise. I thought she'd still coast to the line but she came right back to me. But she doesn't know how to get beat and she's won, that's the bottom line isn't it. That's the key to the story, she's won again and she's amazing,” he said.
Black Caviar won despite being undoubtedly below her best which adds merit to this performance in her amazing unbeaten run which now stretches 13 wins more than any other Australian horse in history.
“She was a like a prize-fighter today. She was down but she got up,” Nolen said of the mare, who for one of the few times in her career, looked to be feeling the effects of the exertion.
“She didn't travel like she usually does, just didn't truck into the race like she usually does.
“She wasn't quite the same horse today as in so many of her previous wins. It would have been a travesty had she been beaten today but she wasn't,” said Nolen who quipped “they weren't the only ones” when asked about Black Caviar fans being anxious in the closing stages.
Moody, who hinted at retirement for the mare if she didn't come through the race well, said his only disappointment was that the mare had not been exposed to the British earlier in her career.
“On Tuesday, I saw the finest performance I've ever seen on a racecourse and it's slightly disappointing we couldn't do something similar today,” Moody said referring to Frankel's 11-length romp in the Queen Anne Stakes.
“I think 12 months ago she might have but she's nearer the end of her career now. Maybe there'll still be some doubting Thomases but what more can she do than win every time she goes out.”
Moody said he felt she won despite not being at her best.
“I always said we'd be happy with an inch but I think she was well below her best,” he said.
The margin was narrow, and a Bradman like last innings duck catastrophe avoided, but a win is a win.
“If you backed Moonlight Cloud you are never going to collect,” as one UK journalist observed.
A further perspective came from Irish international handicapper Garry O'Gorman who said, “She didn't have anything to prove to me. What's she done is phenomenal.”
Freddy Head, trainer of runner-up of Moonlight Cloud, was gracious in defeat and also offered some perspective. “She won,” he said of Black Caviar, “and we are the second best sprinter in the world. That's not too bad.”
“A part of my heart is in Australia having spent so much time with Tommy Smith when I was young and I'm not sure how I would have felt about being the one to beat Black Caviar,” Head said.
Black Caviar became the most traded horse in Betafair history according to Betfair UK spokesman Tony Calvin. “Of the 13.2 million pounds traded on the Diamond Jubilee win market, an amazing 12.6 million pounds centred on Black Caviar,” he said.
In claiming her 22nd win Black Caviar pocketed a little under $A1.04 million for connections with $600,000 coming via the VRC's Patinack Farm Classic Bonus which was on offer if the 2011 race winner could claim an international leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.
Should she continue to race on in the spring as planned, Black Caviar will claim a further $600,000 bonus if she can win a third straight $1m Patinack Farm Classic on 5 November - the final day of the 2012 Melbourne Cup Carnival.