Australia

Turfers Paradise

At the Gold Coast in Queensland

Mats Genberg Magic Millions, Gallop Magazine

Australian horse racing is more than just the Melbourne Cup. At the Gold Coast in Queensland, you can experience racing in an environment that at first glance looks more suited for beach life. Here Surfers Paradise is not only a term, it’s the actual name of a town. Although we feel that it could just as well be called Turfers Paradise. Home to one of the 10 highest-paid race meetings in the world.

 

Horse racing is big in Australia. Really big! We’re not only talking ”240,000 people-in-the-industry” big, but big in the sense that it’s present everywhere. Taxi drivers talk about horses to passengers in the back, jockeys are stars who make the front page of newspapers, and new breeders actually have business plans.

Beaches, waterways, hotels and horse racing. Gold Coast is a dream for many.
Beaches, waterways, hotels and horse racing. Gold Coast is a dream for many.

Queensland, with just 5 million inhabitants, might not be as well known in the international racing world as Victoria (Melbourne) or New South Wales (Sydney), but things are changing rapidly. With some 2,400 Thoroughbred foals born every year, Queensland alone produces more race horses than any state in the United States except Kentucky.

Racing takes place at more than 130 race clubs across the state, ranging from metropolitan Group 1 race meetings to once-a-year picnic meetings in its remotest corners. That is roughly one race club per 38,000 people, and some Saturdays you can choose between racing at 12 different courses.

Raceday Magic Million
The Magic Millions Raceday at Gold Coast Turf Club

”It’s in our DNA,” says our cab driver as we drive by his favourite surfing spots along the Gold Coast. ”We’re a young country, and we just moved into the cities a few decades ago. If we don’t have a personal relationship to horses, our parents or grandparents sure had.”

”We’re very serious when it comes to racing, but also very serious when it comes to having a good time.”

In Australia, racing is an industry in ways that are very different from many other places in the world. Some 240,000 people work part or full time in racing, and in Queensland alone, there are more than 1,000 trainers and 200 jockeys.

”In many countries racing and breeding is a hobby for the rich, but here it’s an integral part of agriculture,” says a breeder we met at the Magic Millions races on the Gold Coast.

Click here to see some of the non-racing things you can do in Surfer’s Paradise

”Me and my wife left our regular jobs and set up a breeding operation at her parents’ farm. We invest in mares in the $600,000 (AUD) region and plan to keep them for three foals before we sell them. That way we hope to be able to sell excitement and hope in the yearlings, while still be able to have a secondhand value in the mare.”

Raceday Magic Million
In Australia racing attracts people of all ages

Queensland sits on the north eastern and warmest corner of Australia. From the northern tip of the state, you are less than 100 miles from Papau New Guinea. Like everything in Australia, it’s vast! It is about three times the size of France or the combined size of Texas, California, Montana and New Mexico.

Take the sunshine, surfing and relaxed lifestyle of California, add some British heritage, a pinch of Florida’s hotels and waterways, flavor it with Texas-like pickup-truck/ranch culture and a dose of Scandinavian welfare, then put that in a tropical jungle setting, and you get an idea of what to expect.

Rainbow Lorikeet, part of the Colorful Birds of Australia.
Rainbow Lorikeet, part of the Colorful Birds of Australia.
Just sign up and get started.
Just sign up to a surfing school and ride the waves

The epicenter of racing in Queensland from an international perspective is the Magic Millions Carnival each January in the southern part of the Gold Coast. Although the Gold Coast was originally a nickname invented by real estate developers, since 1958 it’s been the official name of what is today Australia’s sixth largest city with about 600,000 inhabitants.

The city consists of about 70 km (43 mi) of coastline dotted with some of the best beaches and surfing spots in Australia.

Raceday Magic Million
Magic Millions

Combined with 850 km (560 mi) of waterways, it’s no surprise to find a beach life and surfing museum. Shorts and flip-flops equal the outfit here, but you see relatively few people sunbathing on beaches. Aussies have respect for the sun, and the national skin-cancer awareness campaigns seem to have worked well.

Surfers Paradise is probably the most well known part of the Gold Coast. Here you find Florida-style beach-front skyscrapers and waterways that would make people from Miami feel at home. This is also where the Magic Millions Carnival starts every year, when the draw for the stalls (or barriers as they are known in Oz) for the big Saturday races is made literally on the beach.

The Magic Millions was originally just one single million. In 1985, Carl Waugh came up with a brand new idea: to host a yearling sale at the Gold Coast where all sold horses—and only those—would be eligible to race for $1 million in prize money in a 2-year-old race the following year.

There are surfing schools on every beach, and there are many beaches here!
There are surfing schools on every beach, and there are many beaches here!

At the first sale, 200 horses went through the ring, and one of them was later to be named Snippets. The next year he became the inaugural winner in the first ”closed” race restricted to sales graduates to be run anywhere in the world. Snippets would go on to win three Group 1 races and become one of the most important stallions in Australia.

The success of the idea was a fact, and in 2015 some 900 horses were sold for a total of $103 million. In 2016, Magic Millions Gold Coast Raceday will be the richest in Australia and among the Top 10 in the world. Offering a total of $10 million in prize money over a nine-race program, it will feature seven races worth $1 million or more.

American-based Spendthrift Farm bought this Sepoy colt for $1,2 million (AUD).
American-based Spendthrift Farm bought this Sepoy colt for
$1,2 million (AUD).

Magic Millions is now a nationwide company with sales and races all over Australia. The main event, however, is still the sale and race in January that has developed into a full-fledged carnival. It is a week full of parties, Oz-style.

”Australia is not like Europe or America,” says Vin Cox, Magic Millions’ managing director. ”We’re very serious when it comes to racing, but also very serious when it comes to having a good time.”

Vin Cox, Magic Millons’ managing director.
Vin Cox, Magic Millons’ managing director.

The Magic Millions Carnival is present everywhere on the Gold Coast during that week. It all kicks off with the draw for the Saturday races on the beach in Surfers Paradise on Tuesday morning. The draw itself is a major event with dozens of TV-stations and celebrities and—as tradition has it—started by Thoroughbreds racing down the beach and creating the image that has become synonymous with the carnival: Race-horses, sun, sea, beach and hotels.

All through the week, a total of 26 Magic Millions events take their turn in making sure nobody ever gets bored. From dinner parties and luncheons to fashion shows and seminars, there is something for everybody.

”The Australian racing culture has progressed at a lightning pace, developing to such a high standard that it now competes on a worldwide stage,” says Cox. ”People who love racing also have other interests. They want to be able to travel with spouses and children and have fun. That’s what makes the Magic Millions Carnival and the Gold Coast an ideal vacation plan.

Big truck!
Big truck ozzie style

There is an endless supply of activities for a wide range of interests. The attractions are all within close proximity, there isn’t any traffic to waste time in, and the weather is perfect!”

The fact the carnival lasts for a full week also makes it a favourite meeting spot for people in the industry; the
atmosphere is informal and there is a lot of time to meet and chat.

”It’s a bit like summer camp or Spring break for grown ups,” says John Moynihan, an American bloodstock agent who often buys for Stonestreet Farms. ”You go to the beach or an attraction in the morning, spend some time at the sales in the afternoon, and then you have fun with new or old friends in the evening. You really have time to let it all sink in and allow yourself to just enjoy the trip.”

TV presenter Francesca Cumani combines beach life and horses in Magic Millions’ special way.
TV presenter Francesca Cumani combines beach life and horses in Magic Millions’ special way.

The sale takes place in an open plan barn next to the race course, filled with dining tables where hundreds of people can relax, have a meal with friends, and bid on the auction. Spotters shout while waiters walk around balancing trays full of beer and wine bottles.

The Magic Millions sales pavilion feels like a giant dinner party.
The Magic Millions sales pavilion feels like a giant dinner party.

The atmosphere is completely unlike that of the traditional sales in Europe or the U.S., but the quality of the horses is just as high—all lots on offer have been carefully selected by Magic Millions Bloodstock Consultants for their conformation and pedigrees. More and more international buyers come here in order to become part of Australian racing or to bring home Australian bloodlines, and today close to 20 percent of all purchases are made by foreigners.

”In Australia, partnerships are a common way to own a horse,” says Cox. ”Popular trainers and bloodstock agents offer shares within stock to form an ownership syndicate; this brings racing back to the people. We actually have several major owners from abroad who buy a share in a horse in Australia, just to come here and feel what it’s like to have the ’man on the street’ knowing about your horse.”

A hardworking Aussie bid spotter.
A hardworking Aussie bid spotter.

Another thing that makes the Magic Millions Carnival feel revolutionary is the demographic range. Attendees and participants are younger than average, and there are more women in place than at most other major racing events.

”Women are strong in Australian racing, and they are getting stronger by the day,” says Christiane Head-Maarek, the conditioner of Treve and a leading female trainer known the world over.

Magic Million. Raceday Fashions On The Field.
Fashion and racing is a big business combo down under

Encouraging female participation in the sport is a priority for Magic Millions. The $2 million Jeep Magic Millions 2YO Classic includes an additional $500,000 Racing Women’s Bonus that is distributed to the first four all-female owned or leased horses in finishing order.

”We have made a key point of making racing attractive for a young and new audience of both genders,” says Katie Harvey, part owner of Magic Millions.

”We want the industry to move past being a closed club that’s dominated by elderly men. Both in the sale ring and at the track, Magic Millions strives for an event that appeals to the masses, a party that inspires all ages, and a sport that awes even the most athletic.”

And a party it is. Mark the beginning of january for Queensland and Magic Millions.

Get more good racing stories and great photography the world’s only feel-good horse racing magazine. 

Girls – Rule the world

Amanda Duckworth Sharon Lee Chapman, Getty Images

In its 155-year history, the Melbourne Cup has been won by female owners, trainers and horses. And now, finally, by a female jockey. When a 100-1 shot wins one of the biggest races in the world, usually the horse’s name is what becomes legendary. However, with all due respect to Prince of Penzance’s gallant effort, it is his jockey Michelle Payne who is going into the record books after the pair took the AU$6.2 million Melbourne Cup.

Prince of Penzance’s and jockey Michelle Payne winning Melbourne Cup 2015.
Prince of Penzance’s and jockey Michelle Payne winning Melbourne Cup 2015.

 

In the immediate aftermath of the race, story lines came pouring out like molten lava from a volcano. Once everyone had come to terms with the fact a huge upset had taken place, one factoid quickly became the headline: Michelle had just become the first female jockey to ever win the ‘Race that Stops a Nation.’

“I just hope it’s a reminder that if you work hard and you dream, things can happen,” she said. “I really want to say to all the young children and people growing up with dreams, you’ve got to believe in yourself. For some reason I always have had great belief in myself. I don’t know why, but I always thought I was going to be a good jockey and one day win the Melbourne Cup.”

Making the win even sweeter is the fact it was also the first Cup victory for Prince of Penzance’s trainer, Darren Weir. The champion Victorian trainer has always had faith in Michelle, who has piloted Prince of Penzance in 23 of his 24 career starts.

The feel-good nature of their victory didn’t stop there, though. Prince of Penzance’s strapper is Michelle’s brother, Stevie, who successfully predicted he would snare barrier one for his sister at the Melbourne Cup’s draw.

However, almost dying is a pretty good reason to not be at your best for a bit.

Sharing the historic win with her brother, who has Down Syndrome, made the victory even sweeter for Michelle.
Sharing the historic win with her brother, who has Down Syndrome, made the victory even sweeter for Michelle.

 

• 1915 The first woman owner to win the Cup was Mrs E.A. Widdis with Patrobas.

• 1938 Technically Mrs. Allen McDonald became the first female trainer to win the Cup, but because women could not be licensed in Australia, it was her husband who was put down as the trainer of record of Catalogue.

• 1987 The first female jockey to ride in the Cup was Maree Lyndon on Argonaut Style.

• 2001 Sheila Laxon becomes the first woman trainer to officially win the Melbourne Cup. Doubling up on girl power, she won with the mare Ethereal.

• 2003 The first Australian female jockey to ride in the Cup was Clare Lindop on Debben.

• 2005 Wondermare Makybe Diva becomes the only horse to ever win the Cup three times.

• 2013 Fiorente makes trainer Gai Waterhouse, the ‘First Lady of
Australian Racing,’ the third (or second if you want to be technical) woman to win the Cup.

• 2015 Michelle Payne, riding Prince of Penzance, becomes the first female jockey to win the Cup.

 

“Michelle said she would have been happy with barrier one or two, but I said ‘I’m going to get barrier number one’ and I got it,” Stevie said. “It was very exciting, I’m so happy for Darren, Michelle and all the owners.”

Having a beneficial post position helped Michelle win the race of her life. Stevie has Down Syndrome, and the spotlight on his career success has hopefully challenged stigmas surrounding the condition. Watching Stevie lead Michelle and Prince of Penzance back into the yard after their victory is one of the most touching moments in sports this year.
Or ever.
“He’s just as capable and can do just as good a job as any of the other staff,” said Michelle. “It’s just great that he’s been able to share this experience with me because growing up we were always so much closer being the two youngest of 10. We were often left to go and play on our own, and it’s just amazing to be able to share that with him.”

Then there is the horse himself. Prince of Penzance earned his spot in the race by finishing second in the Moonee Valley Cup just 11 days prior. The gelding had won the contest in 2014, which was his last victory before the duo’s historic achievement. However, almost dying is a pretty good reason to not be at your best for a bit. In February, while on a spell, the gelding suffered from colic and had to have life-saving surgery due to his twisted bowel. His spell ended up stretching to 41 weeks while he recovered.

“He’s just a superstar, this horse,” said Michelle. “What he’s been through, I thought he could do it, but Darren said they don’t usually come back from colic surgery as good as they were. But he’s come back better.”

To top it all off, there are the 6-year-old gelding’s owners. All 50 or so of them. Back in 2011, you could get a 2% stake in the future Melbourne Cup winner for AU$1,000. The horse, affectionately known as Pop, has now earned AU$4,405,690.

For all the storylines, though, the one that will leave its biggest mark on history is Michelle’s.

“The unlikely win of Darren Weir, Michelle Payne and my good friend Sandy McGregor, the managing owner of Prince of Penzance, is another unforgettable chapter in the rich history of our great race,” said Victoria Racing Club’s CEO Simon Love. “Michelle’s remarkable Emirates Melbourne Cup victory has made history and headlines around the world. We hope that her determination will encourage further female participation and provide countless new opportunities for women in racing.”

The first female jockey to ride in the Cup was Maree Lyndon on Argonaut Style in 1987, and now Michelle’s name will go down as the first to win it. The 30-year-old was riding in just her second Melbourne Cup, after finishing 22nd on Allez Wonder in 2009.

This time though, with this horse, she was not to be denied.

“I’ve obviously dreamt about it for many years,” Michelle said. “I’d run this race in my head a few times, and I couldn’t believe how relaxed I was. I just went out there and rode the race. It didn’t work out great from the start because he began a bit slow. I had to dig him out, which was the last thing I wanted to do, to get him pulling in the race. But I felt I had to hold my position. I wasn’t giving up that rail.”

Michelle, who once said she would retire from racing riding at age 28 but changed her mind, came by her love of riding honestly, hailing from a racing family. She paid tribute to that heritage, noting that her father was a trainer and seven of her nine other siblings also became jockeys.

“Racing is in my blood,” she said. “Right from as long as I can remember I was going to be a jockey. There are just so many people to thank. My family, every one of them is a support in their own way and I’m so grateful to be from such a large family. My dad, he’s awesome. Every time you’re going through a hard stage he picks you up and brings you back. I’m just grateful to everybody because I wouldn’t be here without them.”

For those who doubted her, Michelle also had a few memorable words:

“I just want to say to everyone else, they can get stuffed because they think women aren’t strong enough. We just beat the world. I’m so glad I could do the job, not only for Darren and all the owners and his team, but for female jockeys in particular.”

 

 

BLACK CAVIAR – the wonder mare

Amanda Duckworth Steven Dowden/racehorsephotos.com.au, Bronwen Healy/racingfotos.com

Her name is Black Caviar. During the four years between April 18, 2009 and April 17, 2013, the wonder mare affectionately known as Nelly left her mark not just on Australia’s racing scene, but the world’s. After all, even the hardest of hard boots has to be impressed by a race record that reads 25: 25-0-0.

 

Four days prior to her somewhat unexpected retirement, Black Caviar stepped onto the track at Randwick for the TJ Smith Stakes, and a sell-out crowd of around 24,000 people was on hand to watch what turned out to be her swan song.

With her dominant win, Black Caviar pushed her record to a perfect 25-for-25 and her Group 1 victory tally to 15, surpassing the record held by the re­vered Kingston Town. Race fans the world over celebrated the talented mare. Rumors ran rampant about a possible return to Royal Ascot, followed by a date with England’s unbeaten champion Frankel.

Then, with a press conference, the ride came to an abrupt end. “At the end of the day we believe she’s done everything we’ve asked her to do and she could possibly have done no more,” said trainer Peter Moody.  “It’s a job well done, and something we can all be extremely proud of. She really gave her all and we thought what else can we achieve? She’s been a great shining light for racing.”

Usually the old  “there was nothing left to prove” line will make fans, industry types and the media collectively roll their eyes. But in Black Caviar’s case, the words rang too true to object to them. Nelly had done everything asked of her—including traveling halfway around the world and back—and no one could begrudge this particular champion for going out on top.

2013_03_22_moonee-valley_0011

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The Early Days

Black Caviar arrived on the scene Aug. 18, 2006 at 5:20 a.m. at Gilgai Farm in Nagambie, Victoria. She was the first born out of the unraced mare Helsinge and spent her foal days on the Goulburn River property before heading to Swettenham Stud in December 2007 for a 10-week yearling preparation.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Australia, long-time friends Colin and Jannene Madden, Gary and Kerryn Wilkie and Neil Werrett were enjoying a holiday on a hired houseboat. It is tradition for the friends. That February of 2007, Werrett convinced the group they should buy a racehorse together. In 2008, they did. The merry band of longtime chums had no idea that their holiday lark would result in owning one of the best racehorses of all time.

At the time the decision was made, trainer Peter Moody had just purchased an unnamed filly for AUS$210,000 at the Mel­bourne premier yearling sale. Werrett had horses with Moody, and the trainer suggested he form a syndicate to own the recent purchase. He took his advice, and the group expanded to include Jannene Madden’s sister, Pam Hawkes, as well as one of Gary Wilkie’s mates named David Taylor, and his wife, Jill.

Hawkes, who has a penchant for seafood, came up with the name Black Caviar for their new acquisition. After all, the Bel Esprit filly’s grandmother was Scandinavia, which is the home of salmon roe, a form of caviar.

Continuing the group’s camaraderie and nod to the delicacy, Wilkie’s daughter came up with the colors for the filly’s silks—salmon with black spots. And yes, the spots are meant to represent caviar.

In 2009, an unheralded second race at Flemington served as Black Caviar’s racing debut. No one could know at the time that the 2-year-old who galloped away to an easy five-length victory would go on to be one of the greatest stars the sport has known. However, her performance that day was certainly good enough to garner some respect. It was the first—and only—time her odds would be anything other than odds-on.

A few weeks later, Black Caviar got the first bit of black type on her resume with an easy score in the Blue Sapphire Stakes. Even an awkward start could not stop her from prevailing by six lengths to close out her juvenile campaign.

When Black Caviar returned to the track months later for her 3-year-old debut in the William Crockett Stakes, she was ridden for the first time by jockey Luke Nolen. Moody’s stable jockey would be her partner for the majority of her historic career, and an easy victory there had her primed to take on the boys in the Group 2 Danehill Stakes.

“At the end of the day we believe she’s done everything we’ve asked her to do and she could possibly have done no more”

Defeating males became routine for Black Caviar, but she did it for the first time in her first attempt at group company as she gamely defeated Wanted, her own stable-mate. Wanted would go on to be a Group 1 winner in his own right. Black Caviar, unfortunately, tore a chest muscle while breaking from the gate and was sidelined for the rest of the spring.

In January 2010, Black Caviar re-appeared on the track for the Group 2 Australia Stakes. It was her first chance at older horses, and she didn’t miss a beat. However, bad luck came after that race and injury put her back on the sideline until October.

Upon her return to the track Black Caviar added two more Group 2 triumphs to her resume in the form of the Schillaci Stakes and Moir Stakes. It was decided it was time for the undefeated filly to step up her game and take on Group 1 company.

On Nov. 6, 2010, Black Caviar lined up for the first of what would turn out to be 15 Group 1 victories. She strolled home in the Patinack Farm Classic. It was quite a way to end the year.

Black Caviar at Royal Ascot. In what turned out to be a true nail-biter!!
Black Caviar at Royal Ascot. In what turned out to be a true nail-biter!!

”Additionally, she was named Sportswoman of the Year by the Daily Telegraph. Not horse of the year. Sportswoman of the Year. Even though Australia had been well represented at the 2012 Olympic Games”

The following February witnessed the wonder mare add the Group 1 Lightning Stakes to her growing list of accomplishments, but it was her next race that really started bringing in the accolades.

During the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap, Black Caviar set a modern-day weight-carrying record for a mare. She went to post with 58kg, surpassing the 56.5kg carried by Maybe Mahal in 1978. With that victory, she also became the first Australian horse to win their first 10 career starts at metropolitan tracks.

A star had truly been born.

• Black Caviar retired with a perfect record of 25-for-25. All but one of those races came in stakes company, and an Australian record of 15 of them came in Group 1 company.

• Her total winning margin is 79.7 lengths.

• Black Caviar’s stable name is Nelly. She is 16.2 hands tall and weighed approximately 620 kg during her racing days.

• When Black Caviar raced at Royal Ascot in England, more than 32,000 people watched the race on big screens in downtown Melbourne.

• Black Caviar was bottle fed as a foal, and while racing had an egg in her feed every day.

• Although Luke Nolen is known for being Black Caviar’s regular rider, 16-year-old apprentice Jarrad Noske rode the future wondermare in her first two races.

• Collingwood footballer Dale Thomas has a picture of Black Caviar tattooed on his backside. He bet one of her owners, David Taylor, that the mighty mare would not win 20 in a row. He lost.

• In the 2012 Lightning Stakes, Black Caviar ran her fastest ever 200m split in 9.98 seconds. She was the first horse in Australia to break 10 seconds for a furlong in an official Thoroughbred race, giving her a top speed of 72.14km/h or 45.09mph. For context, human sprinter Usain Bolt’s world record for 200 meters is 19.19 seconds.

• The shortest price Black started for in a race was $1.04 in the Patinack Farm Classic. This means you had to bet $33 to get a return of $34.

• Black Caviar won over five furlongs (1,000 metres) six times, six furlongs (1,200 metres) 18 times and seven furlongs (1,400 metres) once.

• Black Caviar and Frankel are very distant relations on the dam side. Her 21st dam, Prunella (dam of 1804 Epsom Oaks winner Pelisse), is the 18th dam of Frankel.

• Helsinge, Black Caviar’s dam, was unnamed when purchased by Rick Jamison at the Inglis Easter Broodmare Sale. She was first named Oh Billy Oh before being renamed Helsinge.

• Australia’s racing queen is a modern girl. She is a phenomenon on Twitter and Facebook, with over 70,000 followers.

• Black Caviar holds the modern day international record for consecutive victories at the top level. She broke the mark with her 20th victory, surpassing Zenyatta, who achieved 19 wins before losing.

• When she was named to the Australian Racing Hall of Fame while still actively racing, Black Caviar was only the second horse to receive such an honor. Sunline was the first.

 

The later days

As her career progressed, Black Caviar traveled Australia, compiling win after win. Record crowds appeared wherever she did, bets were placed and the grand mare never disappointed. On April 28, 2012, she posted her 20th consecutive victory while winning for fun in the Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes.

That victory pushed her passed the previous Australian record for consecutive metropolitan wins set by Desert Gold and Gloaming early last century. It also broke the modern-day international record set by the United States’ Zenyatta in 2010.

Although Black Caviar belonged to Australia, by now her international appeal was quite broad. For all of her amazing feats in her homeland, perhaps what she will be best remembered for is her 22nd victory. The one that came in England at Royal Ascot.

Wearing a specially designed compression suit, and after a 30-hour, 11,000 mile flight, Black Caviar landed in England take on her biggest challenge yet… racing away from home. Nothing would go her way, and yet the champion proved in every possible way why she bears such a title.

Wonder mare Black Caviar used o suit form oz company Hidez on her journy to Englnd . A completet suit is about Euro 470/$600. www.hidez.com.au
Wonder mare Black Caviar used a suit from oz company Hidez on her journey to England.
A complete suit is about Euro 470/$600. www.hidez.com.au

Thousands of Aussies helped make up the crowd of 80,000 at the track, while thousands more stayed up past midnight at home to watch their grand mare race. In Melbourne, they went so far as to set up a big screen in Federation Square for anyone who wanted to watch.

Gasps could be heard when inexplicably her faithful partner, Nolen, stopped riding in the final strides of the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Everyone had to wait to hear if the darling mare had pulled off the task. As it turns out, she did. By a desperate head.

“I underestimated the testing track of Ascot,” Nolen admitted.  “She’d had enough and that big en­gine throttled right down. It’s unfortunate, because we’re going to talk more about my brain failure than the horse’s fantastic effort. We won, but it may have over­shadowed what was a fantastic effort by the horse. We got away with it.”
Following Black Caviar’s victory, none other than Queen Elizabeth II herself was there to give a pat to the queen of the track in the winner’s enclosure. It was an international iconic moment for any who loves the sport of horse racing.

Later, it was also revealed later that it wasn’t just Nolen’s accidental error that kept Black Caviar from being as dominant as many hoped. She also suffered severe leg and back muscle injuries during the race and yet persevered.

Many thought that injury might be the end of the grand mare’s campaign, but it wasn’t. She returned home to Australia and in the early parts of 2013 posted three more victories in Group 1 company. Her first start back came in none other than the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes, and winning wasn’t enough. She also had to break the long-standing 1,000 meters track record at Flemington.

On March 22, she cruised to victory at a packed-to-capacity Moonee Valley while contesting the Group 1 William Reid Stakes. Perhaps track announcer Greg Miles said it best, proclaiming, “This is brutal power, wrapped in an elegant machine.”

“It’s been a great honor to call Black Caviar 19 times,” Miles told Racing Victoria. “It has been extraordinary to watch the sight of the crowd from our lofty vantage point. The sea of salmon and black is not just a figment, it is real. It is amazing. As her legacy continued to grow, and crowds became bigger and bigger, it was just an enormous sight. Ever­yone came decked out for one reason and to support one horse. It was quite a unique feeling.”

Then came the April 13 TJ Smith Stakes and her unparalleled 25th victory. In doing so, Black Caviar demolished a few more of Australia’s racing records. Not only did she score her 15th Group 1 win, but she ended her career with eight Group 1 wins in succession, besting the record previously held by Bernborough set in 1946.

In all, Black Caviar won at seven tracks and raced over five, six and seven furlongs during a four-year campaign. In addition to her perfect race record, she also retired with more than AUS$7.95 million in prize money. But perhaps most importantly of all, she went out a champion, in front of the people who loved her best.

 

Beyond the races

Perfection is hard to come by in life, much less in sports. Per­haps that is why Black Caviar struck a chord with so many around the world. Horse racing is a sport that is constantly look­ing for an equine hero, and in Black Caviar, it found its perfect heroine.
The Wonder from Down Under was a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and regularly filled any racecourse she visited to capaci­ty. She has her own merchandise line, her own website, and of course a healthy following on Twitter and Facebook.

Her list of accolades is a long one but perhaps four things serve as the best reminders of the power of Black Caviar. On Feb. 21, 3013, even though she was still running, Black Caviar was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame. It is only the second time the Australians have bestowed such an honor on one of their own.
Furthermore, for all the debate about England’s Frankel versus Australia’s Black Caviar, the European racing set officially ac­knowledged how talented the mare was. During the Cartier Racing Awards, Black Caviar was named 2012 European Champion Sprinter based on her one appearance at Royal Ascot. It was the first time a horse trained outside of Europe was so honored.

Additionally, she was named Sportswoman of the Year by the Daily Telegraph. Not horse of the year. Sportswoman of the Year. Even though Australia had been well represented at the 2012 Olympic Games.
For all that, it was never more clear that Black Caviar was pop­ular beyond the racing sphere then when she graced the cover of Australian Vogue. In doing so, she became the first horse to appear on the cover the fashion magazine. Joining her on the cover of the December 2012 issue was Australian model Julia Nobis.01
“Black Caviar certainly knows when the lens is focused on her, and it’s terrific to celebrate her beauty, rather than just her speed,” said editor-in-chief Edwina McCann.

Black Caviar’s owners have long understood that while they owned the mare, she also held a large space in the hearts of the Australian public at large. Photos of her spending time with her goat during a spell or swimming in the ocean regularly appeared during her career.
So, it is not surprising they arranged a farewell for the grand mare. Three days after the retirement announcement came, Black Caviar was paraded for one final time at Caulfield.

“One of the great things about Black Caviar and what she has brought to the racing industry is a deeper engagement of the community, and the community better understanding what the beauty of the Thoroughbred is all about and understanding the horse,” said Racing Victoria’s CEO, Bernard Saundry, during the farewell.  “That is the real thing that has hit home to me.”

A crowd of several thousand turned out to pay tribute and were rewarded for their efforts. Black Caviar paraded for an hour in the pre-parade ring, while her handler, Donna Fisher, allowed fans to pet the mighty champion and take photos to their hearts’ content. Their beloved Nelly wore a rug that read “Farewell Black Caviar, Thanks for the Memories.”

Following that, Nolen mounted his mighty steed one final time and took her for a canter up the Caulfield straight. Her saddle cloth read: BC25. It is almost certainly the last time Black Caviar will feel a saddle on her back, and it was definitely the final time her famed salmon and black silks will be seen on the track, as they were retired along with the champion.

What the future holds for Nelly as a broodmare, no one knows yet. But one thing will be as true 20 years from now as it is today: Black Caviar owes racing nothing, while racing owes Black Caviar far more than could ever be repaid.

About Black Caviar on Wikipedia

Update:
On September 13, 2014, Black Caviar gave birth to her first foal, a bay filly by Exceed and Excel. The foal is named Oscietra and is currently in training with the Hayes/Dabernig stables.
On 23 September 2015, Black Caviar gave birth to her second foal, a colt by Sebring. On September 18 2016, Black Caviar gave birth to her third foal, a filly by Snitzel.

 

 

The KING & QUEEN

of Royal Ascot 2012

Mats Genberg Alan Crowhurst/gettyimages

Royal Ascot is always that … Royal.
But never was it more Royal than 2012.
We don’t talk about the fact that Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee after 60 years on the British throne. We refer to fact that this celebration was highlighted by the King & Queen of the Turf. Frankel & Black Caviar.

 

frankel

Frankel

 

The two biggest stars racing has seen in many years. The two highest rated horses in the world. Racing on the same course.
The same week. At the Royalest Ascot ever.

Frankel is ”The King.” No question. No matter what some people in Memphis might think. And even if he (just as the Graceland owner) never has performed outside his own country, the facts speak for themselves.

The King came to Ascot and The Queen Anne Stakes with 10 wins in 10 races and the highest rating in the world. He faced two of the five highest rated 3-year-olds in the world. And he destroyed them. With three furlongs left to go it was clear to all ”The King has left the building.”

Frankel bid the others a good day and went home. Passing the finnish line on the way – 11 lengths before anyone else.

In what has been described as ”possibly the greatest performance in Thoroughbred History.” The result? A rating of 147 by Time-form. 142 by Racing Post. Both are the highest ever given to any horse by each organization. And the day after the victory his trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, mentioned that Frankel lost a shoe during the last part of the race. It doesn’t get a whole lot more Royal than that.

Not even at Ascot.

Facts about Frankel

bcaviar

Black Caviar

Unbeaten with 21 wins in Aust-ralia. The thunder from Down Under. The magic mare Black Caviar. The one that makes the country stop when she runs. Still not completely trusted in the UK.

Was she as good as they said?

BC’s trip was covered by Oz media in a way that hasn’t been seen since when Beatles went to the U.S. in the ’60s. Filmcrews watched her get on and off the plane. Cameras followed every step. And thousands of people gathered in front of Jumbo-Trons in Australia to see the Diamond Jubliee Stakes.

Her job was to go out there and win. Odds were 1,3 to 1.

But the 1,200 metres on Ascot were tougher than expected. BC was not in her normal swing, and jockey Luke Nolen didn’t have his best day.

But the biggest remains – she won. By a nose, but she won.

Beating multiple Group 1 winners after a 16,000 km trip. With (as we learned later on) muscle tissue problems. As we see it, that’s about as Royal as it gets.

Facts about Black Caviar