Now that the book on her racing career has been closed, it is possible to closely examine the record of one of the greatest fillies ever to have raced at any time or any place, Black Caviar.
Her story begins when she was foaled on 18 August 2006 at Gilgai Farm in Nagambie, Victoria. She spent her first three months there along the Goulburn River and then was sent to Swettenham Stud in preparation for the Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale. She fetched $210,000 when she was sold to trainer Peter Moody, who was acting on behalf of a syndicate of 9 persons.
She was sired by Bel Esprit that won over $2 million for his 19 starts that encompassed eight wins, two seconds and one third place finish and six unplaced efforts. Black Caviar’s dam was the unraced Helsinge that has another Group 1 winner, All Too Hard to her credit, along with an as yet unraced colt from 2011 by Redoute’s Choice. Black Caviar’s damsire, British Desert Sun, enjoys the distinction of having been the sire of another filly that was certainly worthy of comparison to Black Caviar that carried a name that all racing fans will no doubt immediately recognise, Sunline. Other notables in her pedigree would be Nininsky, Vain, Northern Dancer, Wilkes, Danzig and Nearctic.
Some mention must be made of her jockeys. She had just three during her career. Jarrad Noske rode her for her first two races after Luke Nolen tested her in an 800 metre barrier trial in March of 2009, which she won on a dead track by five lengths.
Noske steered her to a five length victory in the open handicap for two year olds, the Cromwell Handicap at Flemington racecourse. He won aboard her again, this time in the listed Blue Sapphire Stakes at Caulfield, a 1200 metre open handicap. Comments made on her abilities at that time indicate that her talent was already apparent. It was also noted that she was not the quickest out of the barrier, but that she quickly took up the field and put six lengths on her closest competitor, Demerit.
Everyone remarked at that time that Black Caviar had a “big future,” words that were decidedly omniscient. Luke Nolen took over the duties from that point on, winning in August of 2009 for Black Caviar’s first try as a three-year-old, the Group 3 Arrow Training Services Plate, where she encountered interference at the start, yet still finished almost 4 lengths ahead of Miraculous Miss and a tight bunch of others at Moonee Valley.
Nolen continued to be her steady rider except for one occasion in the Spring Racing Carnival of 2010 when Ben Melham was the recipient of Black Caviar’s largess in the first Group 1 victory of her career, the 1200 metre Patinack Farm Classic at Flemington in which Star Witness could only witness from four lengths back. From that point forward, Nolen did the honors exclusively and Black Caviar was to race in nothing less than Group 1 races with the exceptions of the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes at Caulfield in October of 2011, the Group 2 Schweppes Stakes at Moonee Valley later that same month, and the Group 2 Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley in January of 2012.
Without doubt, Black Caviar was at her best at 1200 metres and open handicap conditions. She has only the British Diamond Jubilee Stakes, a 1207 metre affair and one of the races in the Global Sprint Challenge, to her credit at set weight conditions. That race was the closest she ever came to being caught, with Moonlight Cloud just a long neck behind her, but still being eased by Nolen over the final strides. Her singular victory beyond 1200 metres was the 1400 metre C.F. Orr Stakes at Caulfield in February of 2012.
As far as notables she has beaten, it would have to be said that most horses’ connections were reluctant to challenge her. Hay List first lost to her in the 2011 Coolmore Lightning Stakes, where it would have been possible to place over three horses betwixt him and Black Caviar. Hay List managed to cut that deficit to less than three horses in Black Caviar’s first T.J. Smith Stakes victory, but the filly ran him down, coming from third place, one off the rail. Hay List’s best came in their next encounter, the Group 1 B T C Cup at Doomben, when a jockey switch to Glen Boss allowed him to lose by only two lengths after again being stalked by Black Caviar.
From the perspective of the knowledgeable, perhaps the only criticism that could be directed toward Black Caviar is that she often experienced some difficulty getting out of the barrier. That allegation, whilst true, should only be leveled against horses that do not place.
From the perspective of punters, the obvious criticism is that Black Caviar did not pay much when backed, so it took a substantial plunge to make wagering on her worthwhile. Throughout her career, only her first race at Flemington offered over $2, and it might be said that the bookies were feeling exceptionally generous when they sent her off at a $1.14 for her last race at Randwick, since just prior to that she had been fetching no more than $1.10 and was typically sent off at $1.05. Black Caviar was no stranger to awards and recognition.
She was declared the WTRR World Champion Sprinter three years in a row from 2010 to 2012. She was twice named Australian Racehorse of the Year, 2011 and 2012 to go along with her being named Australian Champion Sprinter for those same years and European Champion Sprinter for 2012 for her British win at Ascot in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Of course, the Lightning Stakes has been renamed the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes after her third consecutive win in that Flemington 1000 metre affair, in which incidentally, she broke a 25 year old time record, and she was immediately inducted in the Australian Racing Hall of Fame upon her retirement, a fitting tribute, and one shared only with Sunline for entering the Hall whilst still alive. Black Caviar went out on top.
It may be interesting to speculate, as it is with any athlete in any sport who exits apparently with much promise remaining, what she could have done if she had continued, but the risk of ruining an obviously lucrative career producing offspring proved too much for her trainer and her connections to accept.
She was retired just four days after her win in the 2013 T. J. Smith Stakes. It will be most interesting to see if any of her progeny experiences any success, even in some small way approaching something close to what she produced on the track, but lofty expectations such as these have seldom been fulfilled and the weight of those expectations might prove too much for any horse to carry.