Black Caviar does a Thommo

Jeffrey Robert Thomson REF (the E stands for extremely, exceptionally etc) was able to propel a cricket ball at velocities that, on occasion, probably exceeded 160 km/h. At these kinetic energy levels, pink plastic cricket boxes designed to protect a batsman’s ability to procreate were unable to absorb the impulsive force of cricket ball on box. In Perth, Thommo shattered David Lloyd’s plastic box and left a mess.

Box manufacturers didn’t need to second Richard Feynman to any subsequent ‘box failure’ investigation. The reasons for failure were obvious. Quality testing didn’t take into account a bowler of Thommo’s lethal pace. It must also be admitted that production materials could have been more sturdy.

Given that Thommo’s approach to the wicket was relatively short and nothing more than a leisurely jog, how was Thommo able to shatter a box to smithereens?

Proximate to the moment of delivery, Thommo would gather himself and, in the words of John Benaud, drag one leg behind the other in a sort of Swan Lake crossover, sway back, hide the ball behind his right knee and deliver.

At delivery, Thommo was perfectly side on. His bowling arm would trace out the widest possible arc. In delivering each missile, the arm that Lloyd, Fletcher, Amiss, Denness et al feared more than any other would nearly touch the ground.

He was a human slingshot.

Thommo’s action was biomechanically pure. He made the act of fast bowling look easy.

In a different way, so did Michael Holding. Harold ‘Dickie’ Bird gave him the moniker ‘Whispering Death’ because of his Juantorena-style approach to the bowling crease.

Countless gifted sportspeople have made sporting actions, moments, plays and skills look sublimely easy. Such individuals have possessed the ability to warp a sport’s space-time continuum. In such instances within a sporting contest, time seems to slow down.

Examples of sporting time dilation abound.

Consider the extra time David Ivon Gower appeared to have to play a cover drive, a square cut or a pull shot.

Remember Usain Bolt showboating for about 15 of the 40 strides required to sprint 100 metres while his opponents strained and strived to be in the same postcode.

Think Lionel Messi dribbling his way toward goal and, in the process, making quality defenders look like witches hats.

Recall Gary Ablett’s vertical ascents in pursuit of the football and subsequent descents in possession of the football.

Casual observers of sport, or even eyes untrained in a particular sporting discipline, can often pick out the talented above the mere mortals.

Once such equine example is worth highlighting.

I love Flemington’s time-honoured Newmarket Handicap. It’s run over a famous straight-six furlong course. The often capacity Newmarket field usually consists of an eclectic mix of gun sprinters, first-up milers (usually trained by Bart), talented three-year-olds and dead-set straight-six specialists.

Last Saturday, about 25,000 racegoers attended Black Caviar’s Newmarket Handicap triumph. For the uninitiated, Black Caviar is a sprinting sensation the likes of which racing may never have seen before.

Black Caviar is a hulking mare.

She scorches the turf without appearing to sprint. This is how she has saluted victory in her nine previous career starts.

The presence of Black Caviar caused the 2011 Newmarket to be an atypical renewal of the grand old race. The field contained just 11 runners rather than the usual 24. The stifled betting market was unprecedented. The Newmarket is usually a 7’s-the-field-lottery. Despite carrying the steadier of 58kg (topweight), before they jumped, Black Caviar was still getting crunched for the win at odds of $1.22. Better than bank interest it was thought.

On the way up the Flemington straight to the barrier, Black Caviar appeared to skip over the turf like a cartoon character. She possesses a distinctive and effortless galloping motion. Her feet don’t seem to make contact with the turf. It reminds me of a famous photo of Phar Lap caught in full galloping stride with all fours off the ground.

Black Caviar’s winning modus operandi is simple. Firstly, she quickly reaches her exceedingly high cruising velocity. She then maintains that velocity for a relatively long time period. In the process, she physically breaks her rivals.

Just like Thommo, this is sporting excellence being conducted at velocities rarely before seen.

The race panned out as expected. For the first 800 metres, the postilion, Luke Nolen, had a hard hold on the great mare. Her ten rivals gradually unravelled with every stride. The galloping actions of good horses became more and more ragged. One by one, each of Black Caviar’s rivals hit the wall.

At the 400 metre mark, Nolen gave the mare a little bit of rein.


She put four lengths on them in the twinkling of an eye.

The crowd went bonkers. Where I sat, the crowd rose to offer a standing ovation. There was still a furlong to go. This collective early crow was a certainty. Nolen eased Black Caviar to the line.

Black Caviar ran the fastest Newmarket ever. The clock stopped just outside the course record.

A simple kinematical analysis of Black Caviar’s sectional times puts her amazing run into perspective. Black Caviar traversed the 800 metres from the 1000 metre pole to the 200 metre pole in 41.86 seconds. This equates to an average speed of 68.8 km/h. Next time you’re cruising at that speed in the car, think of Black Caviar.

The fastest sectional from the 600 metre pole to the 400 metre pole converts to a speed of just over 70 km/h.

The worry is that connections of other horses will now avoid races that Black Caviar is entered in. Black Caviar’s next racetrack appearance is in the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley on March 25.

I reckon two entrepreneurial types could dress as a pantomime horse, obtain a vet check and barrier certificate and ‘run’ in the William Reid Stakes. You’d be guaranteed a decent earner.

Thommo put fear into his opponents with his pace. Black Caviar, by different means, does the same.

As Ian Meldrum would say, do yourself a favour, go to the races and watch Black Caviar gallop.

It’s biomechanically perfect.


  1. Flynnie,
    watched the race with my 10 yo daughter. She filled me with pride when she stated the jockey on Black Cav is “not even trying Dad” [at about the 400m mark]. “Look at the other guys waving their arms about..” I have watched the race a dozen times and she is poetry in motion

  2. Flynny – great work. I think I’ve spoken previously about my love for speed. Not mechanical car speed but natural human or animal speed. Its beautiful and its usually effortless. I only saw Caviar’s run on the sports news but even those highlights were something to behold.

    See the speed of a sprinter, the speed of a highly skilled boxer, the speed a footballer in the moment and you’ll feel pure exhilaration.

    Love the way you included G Ablett in this piece. Ahhh, lol.

  3. Andrew Fithall says

    Flynny – I missed Saturday’s run because I was elsewhere. I made contact with Helen early Saturday evening, to say hello of course, but also specifically to find out how Black Caviar went. Sounds like I missed an event. With your story, you have provided some compensation. Well done.

  4. Flynnie,
    David Lloyd’s procreactive possibilities were irrelevant!
    Watching Black Caviar is like those computer race games where, progressively, each horse runs out of its energy. She just sits there as, one after the other, jockeys start to “ask”, whereupon everyone in the crowd gasps, “He (Nolen) hasn’t moved yet!”. On cue, he gives a squeeze and 3 lengths are found. I’ll be at the Valley on 25 March for her next race. Footy will be on the TVs and it will be a great night.

  5. Peter Flynn says

    Thanks Punters,

    Up in the humid air of Brisbane. Love humidity.

    Dips nailed it and was the point of the piece.

    It’s great to watch sport that pushes the boundaries. In the case of Thommo and Black Caviar it’s the velocity boundary.

    You should have seen how ordinary Star Witness looked after the race.

    Like Lloyd’s box, it, and its connections, were shattered.


  6. Flynny,
    Even though I only watched the race on the idiot box, you just had that rare feeling that you were witnessing a special type of greatness.
    It is scary to think that Black Caviar could have posted an even faster time.
    Connections of other nags in the race must be cursing their luck that they have a good ‘un at just the time there is a great ‘un (maybe a future question for Crio!)

  7. Peter Flynn says


    Prince Darius runing second a gazillion times to ‘the mighty’ Tulloch.

    PS Enjoyed playing cricket with you.

    Your wife thinks you are a stonewaller. I disagree.

  8. Phil Dimitriadis says


    not a big fan of horse racing, but wonderful comparisons have been made distinguish between those that have the elusive talent to make a difference against those who toil to rise above mediocrity. Thommo and Black Caviar seem to fit the bill.

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    PF love the connection of Thommo and Black Caviar both speed super stars .
    In the case of Thommo it is amazing that no 1 else has copied hin and his action is the most pure in cricket history and the best case of BOWLING ever
    Black Caviar captured the heart of non racing people ( like myself ) and was simply incredible . Thommo getting injured was a sporting tragedy
    Your other examples were spot on and perfectly described
    Really enjoyed this Thanks Flynny

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