The Australian super horse came home a short head in the lead of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes to run her unbeaten record to 22 races.
Black Caviar overcomes her own jockey's error to shine
Ascot, England // It was a performance that was supposed to seal her magnificence, but Black Caviar only just scraped home in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot yesterday.
The Australian mare looked to have the race wrapped up as she entered the final furlong of six, but five strides from home Luke Nolen, the jockey, eased her up.
A photo finish was required to separate the six year old from the fast-finishing Moonlight Cloud and Restiargent, the French pair. It was judged they finished second and third, respectively, by a head and a neck.
"It doesn't matter does it? I underestimated the gruelling straight track here," Nolens said. "I was just trying to coast through.
"I thought she had done enough. It was a rookie mistake. She really stopped underneath me in those last strides and was out on her feet. When we got back to the stables she was stuffed. Imagine [if] she had got beat. I would have been stabbed."
For Jill Taylor, who with husband David Taylor is among Black Caviar's owners, the possibility of her pride and joy suffering defeat 16,900 kilometres from home, in Melbourne, was simply too much.
"I am in shock," she said. "It's never been that close before. I almost had a heart attack."
It was Black Caviar's 22nd consecutive success and with more than Dh20 million in prize money already banked there are no certainties that racegoers from any hemisphere will see her on a racecourse again.
Frankie Dettori set a furious pace aboard Godolphin's Soul down the middle of the course while Thierry Jarnet, on Moonlight Cloud, tracked Black Caviar, who was placed in third by Nolen.
Two furlongs from home Nolen went for the line and his partner posted her quickest sectional time of the race over the ensuing 200 metres. As Soul dropped away the procession the pre-race analysis had predicted looked as if it was going to be played out in front of the 77,863 spectators.
It was never to be, however, and although retirement is unlikely the prospect was certainly mentioned afterwards.
"She just didn't travel like she can, she didn't have her ears pricked," said Peter Moody, the trainer.
"You've seen her at her lowest ebb for 10 to 12 starts. She just didn't show the zip.
"She was out on her feet, and if she's as tired and worn out when she gets home she may have graced the track for the final time. I won't hesitate in any shape or form."
Black Caviar goes into quarantine this afternoon and is scheduled to arrive back in Australia in 28 days.
If she is retired, the salmon-pink and black polka-dotted silks will be stood down with her.
"The owners already have a new set," said Jeff O'Connor, Moody's racing manager.
In the build-up to yesterday's race those colours could be seen all around the racecourse. From the newly installed Caviar House restaurant in the Royal Enclosure to the less salubrious Silver Ring, the estimated 5,000 Australians here made their presence felt.
Wesley Grant has been selling flowers outside the Royal Meeting for over 20 years and had stocked up on salmon-pink roses in honour of the world's best sprinter.
Grant did not know the precise name of the roses he sold, but he knew he had done a fine piece of business.
"Who cares what they are called," he said. "I sold 15 of those before I could even set up my stall this morning."
Throughout the afternoon, live pictures from Federation Square in Melbourne were beamed around the racecourse, images of cold fans packed in to watch the race, which was screened in Australia after midnight.
"They are a pretty resilient lot, out in the wind and rain in 8°," Moody said.
Frankie Dettori warmed up the crowd by winning the opening race, the Chesham Stakes, with Godolphin's Tha'ir.
The ensuing defeat of Dunaden, the Melbourne Cup winner, to Sea Moon in the Harwicke Stakes could not dampen Australian enthusiasm and a swelling crowd in the Ascot pre-parade ring gathered to watch as Black Caviar went about her paces without a saddle.
Trainers such as John Gosden and Saeed bin Suroor could not help but have a look, but interest extended farther than the racing world as Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the English composer and impresario, looked on. A section of Australians gathered to cheer every time Black Caviar circled past them, savouring every moment of this fleeting visit of their champion.
Unlike her co-owner, Jill Taylor, Pam Hawkes, who named Black Caviar, said a victory by the mare was what mattered, not the extent of it.
"A win is a win, and we are not disappointed with the margin of victory or how she did it," Hawkes said.
"We came to Royal Ascot prepared to lose and we go home winners. We have met the Queen twice in a day and apart from the Duke of Edinburgh, there aren't many people who can say that."
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