Why Black Caviar won’t run in the Melbourne Cup – an explanation for non-racing people
If you know next to nothing about racing but want to know whether Australia’s great horse Black Caviar will run in the race that stops the nation, the Melbourne Cup, this blog is for you. If you are a racing fan, I’d advise you not to read on…
I was doing some analysis on my website today, and one of the most common search queries to come up was about Black Caviar. That was no surprise. But what was surprising, especially to a racing fan, was what they wanted to know about our champion mare.
Visitors were wanting to know why she didn’t run in last year’s Melbourne Cup, or whether she’ll run in this year’s race that stops the nation.
To be honest, this is probably the sort of question I would have been asking 10 years ago – when my racing knowledge consisted of the Melbourne Cup with a dash of Sunline and Northerly and a hint of Phar Lap. Oh, and I better not forget the mighty Might and Power.
But it did come as a bit of a shock, because these days it seems so obvious to me. However, the need to try and clarify this for non-racing fans became apparent once three of my friends asked me about it on Monday.
So here it is – the simple reason why you will not see Black Caviar in the Melbourne Cup. She is a sprinter. The Melbourne Cup is for stayers.
In athletics terms, she is like a Usain Bolt or Sally Pearson. The Melbourne Cup requires a Steve Moneghetti or Paula Radcliffe type. It is the same in cycling – some cyclists, like Mark Cavendish, are good sprinters; some, like Cadel Evans, are better over time.
Black Caviar excels at sprint distances, having won from 1000m to 1400m. Trainer Peter Moody feels her stamina would stretch to a mile, but she is highly unlikely to be tested at the distance. If she runs again (which is said to be a line ball decision at the moment), she will probably be kept to 1200m.
The Melbourne Cup is run over 3200m – so that is more than double the trip Black Caviar has tackled to date. Horses don’t just step up to the staying trip, especially not in Australia. It does happen – one French contender for the Melbourne Cup, Usuelo, won his first start at 3000m – but it has never happened in Australia. The Australian method tends to see a gradual step up in distance. However, with Black Caviar untried beyond 1400m, it just won’t happen. To a racing fan, this goes without saying.
Also, the breeding of a horse tends to indicate their aptitude for a distance. Most Melbourne Cup winners have a pedigree which suggests they’ll enjoy a longer journey. Someone amongst their pedigree – in human terms, their parents (the sire and dam), their grandparents (their grandsires and granddams) or their ancestors will have shown a liking for a staying trip. Black Caviar’s pedigree is full of speed. She does not have the pedigree of a horse who will get out to a Melbourne Cup trip.
Some horses can win from 1200m to 3200m, but most of these are horses better suited over further who get conditions to suit when dropping back in distance. Horses like Might and Power and Saintly were able to win at 1200m and 3200m in the same year, while the likes of Jeune and Let’s Elope were able to win at 1400m at their first start after Melbourne Cup victory. But all four were good middle distance types who could extend their stamina to 3200m while also having enough of a sprint to win over a shorter distance. It is rare to see such versatility. Even a champion like So You Think couldn’t do it.
It is quite sad, actually, that Black Caviar won’t run in the Melbourne Cup. At the moment, just like last year, the Australian contingent for our great race is looking dire. Once again, internationals are likely to dominate. Our great Australasian-bred hopes are all in their twilight years – the likes of 2007 Melbourne Cup winner Efficient and this year’s Sydney Cup winner Niwot (both will be nine years old come November) spring to mind. The VRC Derby didn’t hold up as a form race, while the Australian Derby produced Ethiopia, who is unlikely to head to the Cups. Perhaps Polish Knight may end up being our best hope, along with last year’s Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed.
So, if you are someone who knows nothing about racing, I hope you leave having learnt something!