The arrival of Australian “wonder mare” Black Caviar should have been met with universal excitement; however, amid the obvious anticipation for her first run on British soil at Royal Ascot on 23 June, there was an unavoidable undertone of disappointment.
In the eyes of some horse racing fans (especially those here in Britain), the sole purpose of Caviar’s epic 30-hour journey (aided by her quirky “wet suit”) was to challenge the might of Sir Henry Cecil’s, Frankel, in one of the most eagerly anticipated equine battles in living memory. Therefore, armed with the knowledge that the super clash would not occur, some British fans have been left underwhelmed by the coming of the imperious mare.
For those unaware of Black Caviar and her unparalleled achievements, she is unbeaten in a record-breaking 21 races, amassing over £3.6m in prize money, while selling-out racecourses throughout Australia and capturing the hearts of her fellow compatriots. The six-year-old, trained by Peter Moody, one of the most eminent trainers in Australia, has won every major sprinting title in her homeland, making her not only the second-best horse in the world, but one of the hottest prospects in the equine fraternity.
As Black Caviar lit up the southern hemisphere with her awe-inspiring and destructive performances on the Australian tracks, Sir Henry Cecil’s colt, Frankel, was doing the very same thing here in Britain. In 2011, Frankel, owned by Prince Khalid Abdulla, won the 2,000 Guineas, the St. James’s Palace Stakes, the Sussex Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Frankel, known simply as “the Freak”, epitomised his season when winning the 2,000 Guineas by a remarkable 6-lengths, cementing his place at the very pinnacle of world horse racing. After his explosive 2011 season, Frankel continued his scintillating form by winning the Lockinge Stakes in May after a worrying injury scare. This means that, like his Australian counterpart, Frankel goes into this year’s Royal Ascot meeting unbeaten, having won all of his ten outings.
Having destroyed every opponent put in front of them in their respective countries, it was surely time for the two racing superstars to meet and decide once and for all who is the best horse in the world. Therefore, when Black Caviar’s connections announced that she would travel to Britain in the summer to race at Royal Ascot and Newmarket, the organisers of the Glorious Goodwood festival and their sponsors, Qatar-based investment firm Qipco, dangled the ultimate golden carrot in the faces of Frankel and Caviar.
In return for Frankel and Black Caviar running in the Sussex Stakes on 1 August, the race organisers would raise the prize money from £300,000 to a staggering £1m (a worthy investment knowing that the event would generate unparalleled interest.) Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, a director at Qipco, told BBC Sport: “The sport is blessed to have two such outstanding horses competing at the same time and consequently we felt it would be remiss not to make every effort to try to bring about the race everyone wants to see.”
While the excitement amongst horse racing fans was pulsating, Moody, Caviar’s trainer, was coy on the chances of the clash, saying: “I’m not sure if [racing Frankel] will come off, but I’m quite bullish about it”, suggesting that the step up to one-mile might be too much for the Aussie mare, affectionately known as “Nelly”, having only raced at five, six and seven furlongs.
Therefore, when Moody’s race manager, Jeff O’Connor, announced that Black Caviar would not be running at Glorious Goodwood, it was not a surprise. That being said, it was no consolation to the plethora of horseracing fans who had long been dreaming of the ultimate clash between the two unbeaten superstars. O’Connor declared: “Moody Racing does not intend [on] running Black Caviar at a mile in the Qipco Sussex Stakes, Frankel or no Frankel, as we are looking at getting her back to Melbourne for racing later in the year if she comes through Ascot as well as she can”.
Although it is understandable that many horse racing fans have felt a certain sense of regret and anti-climax at Black Caviar’s arrival this week (Thursday 7 June), we must not forget that her coming is still something to savour. The mare is set to race at both Royal Ascot in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on June 23rd and at Newmarket in the Darley July Cup on 14 July, and for that we should be grateful. While the bookmakers are proclaiming the Diamond Jubilee Stakes a foregone conclusion by installing Caviar as the 4/9 favourite, her run will be a spectacle nonetheless.
More than this, however, it is perhaps the only time we will see her run in this country and therefore, whilst it is a great shame that racing will be deprived of its ultimate contest, we must embrace Black Caviar and enjoy watching her race on British soil. Black Caviar is a one-of-a-kind, a once in a lifetime mare, and we should not let her appearance in Britain be tainted by what was essentially a pipe dream (although a rather appealing one.)
That being said, if British fans do not want to appreciate Caviar’s efforts, her fellow Australians certainly will. A big screen will be erected in Federation Square in Melbourne for Nelly’s legion of fans to watch her race at Ascot at 00:45 local time. The Victorian Minister for Racing, Dennis Napthine said, “Black Caviar has captured our imagination as one of Australia’s greatest racing sensations. In her distinctive salmon and black silks, I have no doubt she’ll be a sensation on the track at Royal Ascot”. Napthine added, “We are hoping many Victorians and visitors to Melbourne will come together to share this moment in racing history live.”
No doubt Black Caviar’s Australian supporters will be delighted to see her bashing the Poms come 23 June.
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