Black Caviar cruises to a new track record in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes.

Black Caviar cruises to a new track record in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes.

Mark Gatt

Unbeaten Black Caviar Sets Record in Comeback

The Bel Esprit mare made a winning comeback from a long layoff.

Demonstrating she still has the competitive fire that has made her a living legend, Black Caviar took her unbeaten record to 23 victories Feb. 16 at Flemington Racecourse in Australia when winning her comeback from a long layoff in record time in the race named in her honor, the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (Aus-I).

Piloted by regular rider Luke Nolen, Black Caviar exploded to the lead and cruised to a 2 1/2-length win over stablemates Moment of Change and Golden Archer while covering 1,000 meters (about five furlongs) in :55.42.The time eclipsed the previous record of :55.50 set by Special in the 1988 Lightning Stakes.

Black Caviar won the Lightning for an unprecedented third consecutive year. The victory marked her 13th win at the group I level, equaling Sunline and Tie The Knot and ranking one short of record-holder Kingston Town.

"I'm just so proud of her," trainer Peter Moody said. "I'm a little bit emotional for the first time. It's just good to have her back. She's just a good news story."

Black Caviar gave her global fan base few knuckle-whitening seconds last June at Royal Ascot when she was almost beaten by French group I winner Moonlight Cloud in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Eng-I). In the lead as the Diamond Jubilee finish line approached, she was eased up too soon by Nolen and Moonlight Cloud nearly overtook her. Realizing the mistake, Nolen shook up his mount and with a mighty surge in the final three strides as she thrust out her neck to win by a desperate head, the slimmest margin of her career.

Emerging from that race with torn muscles and ligaments, the superstar sprinter was sidelined indefinitely to recover and relax, but her connections considered retiring her. Excitement of a possible return began to build last September after Moody cleared her to resume training.

Black Caviar was deemed ready to race after a workout at Caulfield two weeks ago. The 6-year-old Bel Esprit mare, affectionately known as "Nellie," appeared in prime fitness and prepared to take on all challengers, sparking worldwide anticipation of her return in the Lightning. She did not disappoint.

"She continues to amaze me," Nolen said.