Undefeated champion sprinter Black Caviar will have some tough competition April 13 when she bids for her 25th career victory in the $1 million Darley T. J. Smith Stakes (Aus-I) at Royal Randwick in Sydney.
Ten opponents, among them five other group I winners, including familiar rival Hay List, will take a crack at Australia's living legend in the 1,200 meter (about six furlongs) weight-for-age test. The winner receives an automatic starting berth in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT) in November at Santa Anita Park as the T. J. Smith is a Breeders' Cup Challenge qualifying race.
The T. J. Smith is run at Black Caviar's optimum distance; she has won 17 races going 1,200 meters, including the 2011 edition of the race, defeating Hay List by 2 3/4 lengths. In her most recent start, Black Caviar tallied victory number 24 in the Hacer Group William Reid Stakes (Aus-I) March 22 at Moonee Valley. She will shoot for a record eighth consecutive Australian group I win and record 15th at the highest level in her native country.
Black Caviar tuned up for the T. J. Smith April 8, breaking 22 seconds for the final 400 meters of an 800-meter drill at Caulfield, delighting trainer Peter Moody, who is confident she is at peak fitness. She will be vanned to Moody's Rosehill operation in Sydney the evening of April 10 and exercise the day before the race.
There is a slim chance, however, Black Caviar could miss the T. J. Smith if the Randwick turf is too wet. The weather in Sydney has been rainy and the turf at Randwick was rated as heavy April 10. Moody has said his stable star will be scratched if the course does not dry into the "dead" range by race day.
"At least the rain is falling now and not at the end of the week," Moody told www.races.com.au April 10.
"The weather is tipped to be fine on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, so we'll worry about it then."
The 1,200-meter BTC Cup (Aus-I) May 11 at Doomben is an option should Black Caviar scratch out of the race.
If Black Caviar does start in the T. J. Smith as expected, she will break from the inside post under a 125-pound impost, including regular rider Luke Nolen.
Injury-prone Hay List, a 7-year-old Statue of Liberty gelding and a three-time winner at the group I level, has finished second to Black Caviar four times previously, most recently the Coolmore VRC Lightning Stakes (Aus-I) in February 2012 at Flemington.
Trained by John McNair, Hay List has not raced in more than a year due to injury. In his most recent start, he finished second to Foxwedge in the William Reid in March 2012. He was entered to make his first start off the long layoff in The Galaxy (Aus-I) March 30 at Rosehill Gardens but missed the race with an infected hoof.
Hay List will tote 130 pounds in the T. J. Smith and will start from post nine with Glyn Schofield in the irons.
The other group I winners in the field are Atomic Force, Bel Sprinter, Epaulette, and Sea Siren. Along with Black Caviar, the only other horse in the field to enter off a victory is Bel Sprinter (130), a 5-year-old Bel Esprit gelding.
Trained by Jason Warren, he scored by a convincing 3 1/4 lengths in The Galaxy, defeating group I-winning filly Snitzerland in a breakthrough group I victory. He will start from post two with Hugh Bowman to ride.
Sea Siren (125), a 4-year-old Fastnet Rock filly, is a three-time group I winner trained by John O'Shea. Eighth in The Galaxy last time out, she will try to halt a three-race winless stretch since defeating subsequent Patinack Farm Classic (Aus-I) winner Mental in the Sportingbet Manikato Stakes (Aus-I) last October. Jim Cassidy will pilot the filly from post 10.
Peter Snowden's Epaulette (125), winner of the 2012 Golden Rose Stakes (Aus-I) at Rosehill, returns to racing after finishing third to Black Caviar's half brother All Too Hard in the Caulfield Guineas (Aus-I) in October. Kerrin McEvoy has the mount on the 3-year-old Commands colt, who will start from post eight.
Atomic Force (130), a group I winner in Australia and New Zealand for trainer Darren Smith, was seventh in the Galaxy. The 7-year-old Danehill Dancer gelding has not won in five starts since landing the Railway Stakes (NZ-I) at Ellerslie in January 2012.