Sunday, June 24, 2012

Black Caviar: The Wonder from Down Under

Winning streaks build a horse’s fan base like no other accomplishment, especially the ones that span a large amount of races. In recent years, United States racing fans have enjoyed the remarkable winning streaks of Peppers Pride, Rapid Redux, and Zenyatta. Currently, there is a pair of great Thoroughbreds abroad that has maintained perfect records: Frankel and Black Caviar.  Arguably the greatest sprinter of all-time, Black Caviar has now run her record to twenty-two-for-twenty-two.

Bred in Australia, the dark-colored filly began her career there, winning her first three starts by a combined fifteen lengths. She made her group stakes debut in the Danehill Stakes (GII), cutting it the closest she ever had before (at the time) when she triumphed by ¾ of a length.

In 2010, Black Caviar captured four group stakes, including a sole group one, by a collective winning margin of thirteen lengths. By the end of 2010, Black Caviar had run her record to a perfect eight-for-eight. She was ranked as not just the top turf sprinter in the world, but the top sprinter overall in the world by World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings, a classification system formed by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.

Black Caviar galloped to eight additional victories in just as many starts in 2011, conquering six group ones. As her winning streak magnified, she garnered more and more fans, acquiring fans from across the world despite the fact that she remained in Australia as she proceeded to win all sixteen of her career starts. In 2011, the great mare won each of her starts by an average margin of nearly 3 ¼ lengths. She was honored as Australia’s Horse of the Year and was yet again ranked as the top sprinter in the world.

To commence 2012, Black Caviar captured the Australia Stakes (GII) with utter ease, settling just off the pace before drawing away with effortlessness to win by 4 ¼ lengths. Fifteen days later, the remarkable mare went to post in the C.F. Orr Stakes (GI), winning that race by 3 ¼ lengths prior to scoring her second consecutive victory in the Lightning Stakes (GI) a week later, in which she ran her perfect record to nineteen victories in a row, tying Peppers Pride and Zenyatta.

It had been anticipated that Black Caviar would compete on the opulent Dubai World Cup night in the United Arab Emirates
in either the Dubai Golden Shaheen (GI) or the Al Quoz Sprint (GI), but the eight-time group one winner remained in Australia with the goal of later shipping to the esteemed Royal Ascot meeting in England. Black Caviar did not race again for over two months, returning with effortless wins in the Robert Sangster Stakes (GI) and the Goodwood Handicap (GI), extending her winning streak to an incredibly twenty-one victories.

Black Caviar remained on course for a start in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (GI) on the final day of the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting, a race that would define her career and solidify her greatness should she triumph.

After breaking sharply, Black Caviar settled off the pace beneath rider Luke Nolen, galloping over the soft surface with a stride that appeared to come with more difficulty than normal. As the undefeated mare made the lead near the finish, it was clear that she was not at her best – surely she was exhausted from the trip from Australia to England, as well as from the soft going. Without the ease she typically displayed, Black Caviar maintained the lead in the final yards as the field grew closer to her, including the second choice in betting, Moonlight Cloud.

Then came the most controversial part of the race. Merely yards out from the wire, Nolen halted any urging, appearing to gear down Black Caviar. This allowed the others to grow even closer, thus leading Nolen to quickly begin urging the great mare again just a few jumps from the wire. Fortunately, Black Caviar kept her nose in front under the wire with a tremendous display of heart, courage, and determination, keeping her perfect record intact.

There were speculations after the race that Black Caviar had not pulled up well, but she was given the all clear after being scoped. However, she was later discovered to have two muscle tears and there is certainly at least a small chance that she will be retired, not just from the injury, but from the general wear and tear of her twenty-two-race career.

If Black Caviar is retired, it will be sad to see her go, but the racing world can always reflect on the great memories she gave us. More than anything, Black Caviar rallied the nation of Australia, but on the final day of the 2012 Royal Ascot meeting, Black Caviar proved that she had the love of the world embracing her. Not every horse receives a pat from spectacular jockey Frankie Detorrie – who didn’t even ride the mare – let alone Queen Elizabeth II. Black Caviar did. She also relieved cheers from crowds across the world that were unlike any ever seen before. On June 23, 2012, more so than ever before in her career, Black Caviar proved that she is a horse who is not only brilliant, but one that is surrounded by love.

A horse’s greatness is not measured by its winning margins. It’s not even measured by its winning streaks, though Black Caviar has certainly been aided in that category. It’s measured in the amount of adversity a horse overcomes, how the horse rallies fans, how the horse repeatedly displays brilliance while doing what most others are incapable of. Black Caviar can fit into all of those conditions. She is truly great and a horse that should be cherished and forever remembered.

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1 comment:

  1. Beautiful, Mary! Thanks for stating so well what so many of us are feeling. What a heart-stopping finish, but she got the job done. It is my hope that she will quickly recover from her injuries, enjoy the time off her connections have promised and return again - later on - to give us more thrilling races. If she does retire, she has certainly done enough to supply our memories with images to cherish.