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Black Caviar the biggest racing story since Phar Lap

June 23, 2012

Black Caviar’s tilt at English glory in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes is a rarity.

Has there been a bigger racing story, outside of the Melbourne Cup, since Phar Lap’s North American raid in 1932? Perhaps Tulloch’s amazing return from injury could rate up there, as could the dastardly Fine Cotton ring-in, but it is highly unlikely a horse has captured the Australian public’s affection in the same way since “Big Red”.

She is front page news this morning, dominating the headlines. Her every move has been analysed closely by any pundit with the slightest racing knowledge. The rights to the behind-the-scenes footage have been given to racing network TVN, while ABC commentator Gerard Whateley is here hoping to add an incredible chapter to his biography of the champion. It is almost suffocating, and yet it is something racing so desperately needs. It is like the Melbourne Cup has arrived early this year.

It is hard to believe it has been more than three years since Nelly stepped out on a racetrack. That grey April day at Flemington, the day Vision and Power won the Doncaster Mile and Daffodil won the Australian Oaks at Royal Randwick, Black Caviar made an instant impression. She won very cosily by five lengths, at a starting price of $3. It looks amazing value now, given she has not started beyond even money since that day. The longest price she’s started outside of her first start was in the 2010 Patinack Farm Classic – she was sent out $1.90 in the first of her clashes with arch rival Hay List.

In many ways, her runs in Australia have become quite routine. In no way can they be considered boring, but we have come to expect victory. We have come to expect the reactions from the crowd, both pre-race and post-race. We have come to know what will happen. She has been competing against the same horses, and the results have been predictable. This is not the case on Saturday.

Instead, the 5000-plus Australians who will venture west of London on Saturday will experience something completely different. It will be anything but routine. There are a number of questions which immediately come to mind. How will the English receive her? And how will they receive her fans, the parochial and patriotic Australians? What will happen if she wins? What will happen if she loses? Has she travelled well? Will the crowd stir her up, something we have not seen affect her in Australia? Will she find the stiff 1200m at Ascot beyond her? Will the ground be too soft? Will the international array of jockeys outride and outmanouevre Luke Nolen?

These are the many questions which will be answered come 4pm tomorrow London time (1am in Sydney and Melbourne).

On all available form, it is hard to see who could beat her. And so, come tomorrow, we should be celebrating her 22nd victory. A Black Caviar win, one would imagine, would be received very warmly by the mainstream media. Every mainstream outlet in Australia is represented, both print and broadcast, and all are there to see her win.

If she was to win, it would be the equivalent of an Ashes test victory. It would be the equivalent of Cadel Evans winning the Tour De France. The feat may not be as great, although this is arguable, but the pride will be the same. We, as Australians, have many sporting rivals around the world, and only New Zealand comes close to matching the rivalry we have with the British. Beating England on their home turf is the most satisfying feeling for any Australian sports fan, hence why her victory will be received so well.

I’m very lucky to be trackside to see her run, and I’ll be bursting into a chorus of Waltzing Matilda (or perhaps Men At Work’s Down Under) if she passes the post first. If she loses, well…find me the nearest bar. I’ll still be there next week.

Wherever you are worldwide, enjoy watching Black Caviar at Royal Ascot. We may never see something like this again in our lifetime.

Today is also the last Group 1 of the Australian racing season, the Tattersall’s Tiara – not that anyone really cares, with all the attention on Royal Ascot. Despite the barrier, I’m keen on Soft Sand to end the racing season with a Group 1. 

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