L Ascot will once again host a strong international raiding party when the world’s most famous five-day meeting gets underway tomorrow.
Horses and jockeys now regularly travel to Berkshire from throughout Europe and from as far afield as Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. However, it’s the visit of one Australian mare that threatens to grab all the headlines in the days to come.
Black Caviar, the unbeaten sprinting sensation, is rated the world’s second best horse behind Frankel on the back of 21 straight wins. She bids to extend that record on Saturday by recording her 12th success at Group One level in the six furlong Diamond Jubilee Stakes for which she is 1/3 with Coral.
The six-year-old mare exercised in front of the media late last week and all seems to be going to plan. “The boys have been happy and she has been eating and sleeping normally,” reported Jeff O’Connor, racing manager for her trainer Peter Moody. “We’ve covered a lot at home and achieved everything we wanted to achieve there,” he added. “Coming here is not about the prize money, there’s a prestige in winning at Ascot - that is a pretty big thing.”
Black Caviar reportedly took the flight over in her stride, although she did lose the expected 9-10 kilos during the 30 hours in transit. However, she is eating and drinking as normal now and is due to line up on the weekend at her normal fighting weight.
Connections don’t seem too concerned about the recent rain, even though the wonder mare has never raced on a slow or heavy track at home. “We’ve seen her have a lot of gallops at Caulfield on those winter mornings and she’s coped with that every time,” O’Connor reassures. “She had a race trial at Cranbourne before she started racing and did a super time in the heavy going that day.”
He does, however, admit that we are nearer the end of Black Caviar’s racing career than the beginning and that she might soon tell us all that she wants a bit of peace and quiet: “At the moment she loves the cameras and enjoys being a racehorse, but one day she might just turn up and say I have had enough.”
O’Connor is also keen to play down the Anglo-Australian rivalry. “I am really happy at the welcome Black Caviar has got in England. For me, it’s not about her beating the Poms, an angle which has been put forward. I am thrilled that Black Caviar and Frankel are racing at Royal Ascot in the same week and we can adore them both. We just want to turn up and compete,” he said.
One thing for certain is that if the real Black Caviar does turn up, she’ll take some catching.