Caviar for two

Caviar for two

It’s Saturday morning and there’s but one thing on my mind: Black Caviar.

I don’t buy into the baloney about her being the greatest racehorse of all time. Seventeen emphatic wins in a row is impressive; very impressive. But they have all been sprints! If someone were to say to me, “Usain Bolt will win 1seventeen sprints in a row,” my immediate thought would be, “And…”

The fourteen races in a row that Phar Lap won were from 1400m to 3200m, and included the biggest races in the country, and were won in a six-month period.

Black Caviar is exciting, but for me, Atlantic Jewel is even more so. This may make me a “distance-ist”, meaning I think the best horses are those that can win the great races between one and two miles, but then, so is the racing industry because the biggest purses are associated with the longer races.

This afternoon’s Orr Stakes is over 1400m and it’s Caviar’s first attempt at more than a sprint. Whilst her pattern of racing suggests she’ll easily get the extra 200m, it is just enough distance to have undone some of Australia’s greatest sprinters, and so this is a race in which she will either expand her legend, or perhaps, unthinkably, be beaten.

Either way, it is a must watch event.

It’s 2pm and the Keeper asks if I’d like to go for a walk into Torquay central for a coffee. Caviar is running at 3:50pm so calculating that it is an hour return walk and that 45 minutes is more than enough time for civilities, we head off.

At 3:15pm, when we should be making our way home, the Keeper decides we might need a DVD for the evening. Putting relationship before sporting interest, I tag along. It’s 3:30pm and we set off for home with me setting a fair clip.

At 3:48pm, we are still 5 minutes from home. Disappointed and resigned to fact that I will miss the race live, and consoling myself with the promise of replays, my ears pick up the unmistakeable rhythms and inflections of a race call, and I make a beeline for it.

As I draw closer, I hear “Playing God” and “Southern Speed” mentioned and I know it’s the Orr Stakes. It is the most beautiful monologue I have ever heard.

As I arrive at the ute from which the call is coming, a strongly built builder jumps into the cabin and closes the door, preparing to leave.

“After you,” he says, offering me safe passage across the driveway in front of him before he exits it.

“Actually, I was hoping to listen to the race.”

Recognising a kindred spirit and with a beaming smile, he re-opens his car door. “I’ll turn it up for you then.”

It is a surreal 45 seconds; two complete strangers, comfortable in each other’s company, caught up in the fortunes of a racehorse we have no affiliation with.

As Caviar takes the lead at the top of the straight, the builder and I exchange smiles.

As she gets three lengths clear with 200m to go, Bryan Martin is in raptures and the builder and I exchange shakes of the head.

“I hope she gets the mile,” I say enthusiastically. “Yeah, that would be great.” It feels like a high-five moment. With a complete stranger!

“Thanks,” I say, and he nods with a “No problems” as I run off to catch the Keeper.

It’s likely that the builder and I will never meet again, but in trying to synthesise that strange and brief encounter, I concluded that communities are wonderful things.

Whilst, historically, communities are geographic, they also come in many other guises. They are built on culture, values, beliefs, ideologies, common practices, shared interests.

The mere mention of the word “community” invokes feelings of warmth and belonging; summons thoughts of strength and solidarity; conjures up images of people sharing good times together. When you are part of a community, you are mates by default.

In Melbourne, there is the Vietnamese community, the Christian community, the socialist community, and the football community, just to name a few.

And on Saturday, the builder and I came together as members of the newest community in town; one that is growing with every Black Caviar win.

When reviewing the replay later that night, there were eight thoroughbreds that ran like race horses, and one that ran like something else.

Whilst the time Caviar ran is the slowest for the race in fifteen years, doubts about her “greatness” no longer cloud my mind.  She has some work to do before I rate her racing performances as the greatest, but she has captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands of people, and that in itself makes her great.

I don’t know who or where he is, but I’m sure the builder, and my mate, agrees.


  1. And you can be part of a community on your own. All of my family were somewhere else when I watched Black Caviar on Channel 9 last Saturday. But when I watched the race as a lone potato on my couch I was still part of a huge community. Subsequently I placed an enthusiastic message on Facebook which several other friends “liked.”

    Pete, you may be right about stayers being greater achievers than sprinters but Black Caviar must be the greatest sprinter this country has ever produced. Horse racing isn’t my preferred sport but I was sufficiently impressed that I went to the second Saturday at Flemington last year to watch Black Caviar race. There are some sporting acheivements that you shouldn’t miss.

  2. Did anyone else think the way the race was run was an absolute joke? Why did they go so slowly and turn the race into a sit and sprint against the best sprinter in the world?

  3. Not that that takes anything from her ability or her record. I just wanted the others to make a race of it. The stayers were no chance and Southern Speed’s run was very good.

  4. Very close to the worst race I’ve ever seen. The time was as slow as a Kyneton Maiden Plate.

    Let’s hope Rain Affair runs in the Futurity and the hoop has a crack

    Most jockeys in the CF Orr were running for second.

  5. No pressure put on her at all.

    For a look at the greatest ever, check out Secretariat’s win in the 1973 Belmont Stakes. The fastest 2400m ever on dirt, as a 3-year old.

  6. Skip of Skipton says

    When you realise how good a sprinter Hay List is, then you can get some perspective about Black Caviar.

  7. What pace did you expect John? Stayers returning. Who’s going to “blow up” to make it a race. That’s why the odds for place on Southern Speed were extraordinary. Cav’s earned the respect but the “races” have recently been shambolic…nearly “The Man” Mundine attempts to stay unbeaten. Good noms this week, but she really is a phenomenon. Hope Haylist comes back strong to run a convincing second.

  8. Crio, Just thought Danzylum was in a grip that would have strangled Hercules. Danzylum can’t outsprint the champion. So how as it given the best chance of winning the race?

    I thought they were riding FOR her, when the tradition in Australia is to find ways to get the hottie beaten.

    This is not about how good she is: that argument is long won. Just about it being a fair dinkum race.

    I do love how Nolen sits her a little wider than two out – sort of two and a half out – just to eliminate another parameter.

  9. I love watching Black Caviar but my favourite sprinter of all is Schillaci.

    Sprint races were huge in the 80s and 90s with so much quality around. Have a look at this Youtube link to see the size of fields which were filled with lots of quality speed horses.–ecT36t3g

    Caviar is without doubt the premier sprinter in Australia at the moment, and may well be teh best ever but there is not the depth of talent nowadays.

    Breeders and owners are all after Cox Plate, Derby and Melbourne Cup winners and so that’s where the bulk of teh money goes.

  10. All good points John. I agree the only possible way they could have beaten her was to make sure the race was truly run. Of course, by doing that you are probably ruining your chance for the minor prizemoney which they obviously conceded they were racing for prior to the race.

    I’m not getting into arguments about whether BC is better than Phar Lap but I’ve not seen a better racehorse than her.
    She is clearly the most brilliant racehorse in (at least) the last 40 years.

  11. Pete,
    I think most scribes agree that breeders have been (juvenile) sprint obsessed…hence the average Derbies, dearth of WFA horses and imported Cup hopes.

  12. You’re right Crio, I got my stats the wrong way around.

    Fields do look smaller though, though it could just be teh races I’ve seen which is not often anymore.

  13. Usain Bolt winning 17 100m sprints in a row would be amazing and would far surpass Black Caviar for so many reasons.

    All of his opponents would be going for the win for starters.

    I realise you were just making a point, and it’s a great horse, but come on.

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