Black Caviar Heading to Royal Ascot in June
Peter Moody was standing around some of Australia's best Thoroughbreds at his soggy stables in Melbourne, but had time to take a telephone call inquiring about one of them.
As usual, it was about Black Caviar.
The 5-year-old mare owned by a consortium of families and friends, some Melbourne-area vegetable growers, has won 19 races in 19 starts.
She'll get a chance to make it 20 in a row after Moody nominated Black Caviar to run April 28 at Morphettville in South Australia state. Then she'll take her sprint show overseas to Britain's Royal Ascot in late June.
With an official website, Twitter account, and Facebook page dedicated to Black Caviar, her reputation has already spread far and wide.
The bay horse born near Melbourne in August 2006 has an impressive pedigree. The most productive sire of the 20th century, Canadian champion Northern Dancer, is on both her sire and her dam's side.
But the owners, with trainer Moody guiding them, didn't rush Black Caviar's career early. She won two races as a 2-year-old, three as a 3-year-old, and eight as a 4-year-old last year, including six group I races.
"She stands out, that's for sure,'' Moody told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "There isn't anyone in racing who doesn't know about her, and now that's expanded to a lot of the general population.''
Black Caviar's 19th win, on Feb. 18 with regular jockey Luke Nolen aboard, came in the 1,000-meter Lightning Stakes at Flemington in Melbourne, finishing just 0.03 seconds off the course record.
Before and after the race, Black Caviar had thousands of extra fans gathered around her, trying to catch a glimpse of the sprint star. Parents propped children up in front of her, then quickly took photos with their mobile phones.
That win equaled an Australian record that had lasted nearly a century; Desert Gold won 19 consecutive races between 1915 and 1917 and Gloaming did the same between 1919 and 1921.
Moody is not surprised by the attention, given he's had a chance to get used to it from the ground floor. He bought the filly sired by Bel Esprit for $225,000 at the Melbourne premier yearling sales, then encouraged a few friends he had raced horses with before to form a syndicate.
Pam Hawkes, a Mornington Peninsula potato farmer, was one of those lucky ones who came on board and named the filly. Hawkes had a penchant for black caviar.
"Helsinge, the name of Black Caviar's mother, was in Scandinavia and that's where the salmon live. It made sense,'' Hawkes told local media then. The daughter of another syndicate member came up with the colors, salmon with black spots, as in caviar.
Jannene Madden, who owns a share with husband Colin, said the Black Caviar team is loving every minute of the experience.
"It is a wonderful journey, who would have thought we would be part of it?'' she said. "This horse has captured the spirit of Australia."
Bart Cummings, the 84-year-old doyen of Australian trainers whose horses have won the Melbourne Cup 11 times, says there's no sure thing in horse racing, but Black Caviar comes close.
But Cummings also said, "Can't lose? I'd say so,'' when one of his horses came up against Black Caviar in the star sprinter's 18th race. Yes, yet another Black Caviar win.
"She's pretty good. She has a great turn of foot,'' the always-understated Cummings said at the time.
Cummings describes her as an "exciting mare" but holds back any glowing endorsements, telling AP that he doesn't wish to comment on a horse he doesn't train.
Tom Waterhouse is an Australian bookmaker and grandson of 90-year-old Bill Waterhouse, an Australian racing figure for more than 60 years. Bill Waterhouse can remember watching the great Australian gelding Phar Lap, who won 14 straight races in 1930-31, a feat overtaken by Black Caviar five races ago.
"He said he'd seen both Black Caviar and Phar Lap race and that Black Caviar was the better horse, the benchmark horse," Tom Waterhouse said, referring to comments in a letter his grandfather wrote to Moody.
"I guess you could say that Australia has the best sprinters in the world, and she's the best. Her length of stride, it looks as if at many points in a race she's not being tested.''
Waterhouse said that Black Caviar is great for the sport of racing, even if she's "a horse that's hard for bookies, because she never loses."
If Moody's nomination holds, Black Caviar will be making her first race appearance in 2 1/2 months, and seek her 20th straight win, in the Sportingbet Classic Stakes at the Morphettville track in suburban Adelaide. The Classic is a 1,200-meter, group I race that Moody figures will set up his horse for her international debut in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot outside London on June 23.
The six-furlong British race is held on the fifth and final day at Royal Ascot and is part of the Global Sprint Challenge.
The horse's allure had lawmakers in several Australian states trying to get Black Caviar to one of their tracks, but Moody wanted to be firm with her schedule. He even turned down an offer to race her in Dubai on the way to London, saying he didn't want the horse away from her home stable for up to four months.
"I have put 'Nelly' in the paddock, at a destination that I'm not disclosing as the mare deserves some peace and quiet for the next couple of weeks,'' Moody said in a recent column in a Melbourne newspaper. "There's nothing wrong with her. To the contrary, she's at the top of her game."
Moody says Black Caviar will have nearly 2 1/2 weeks off at his stables at Caulfield in Melbourne before flying to England three weeks before the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. And Black Caviar could race again in Britain on July 14 at Newmarket in the July Cup, another leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.
"Everything is being tailored like a Savile Row suit to have her cherry ripe for that race on June 23," Moody said.
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