It was a scene repeated in pubs all over the land.
People from all walks of life. All shapes and sizes. Young and old. All finding a spot to watch a champion.
I ran out of time on the way home last night. Couldn’t risk missing the Mighty Mare continue her record-breaking run. So I made a detour to our friendly neighborhood tavern.
I’d cheered Black Caviar before at home. And at the track. But never at the pub.
It wasn’t crowded. In fact, there were just six of us in front of the big screen.
The Loudmouth was explaining to no-one in particular how they should be taking her on. The other trainers are crazy, he yelled. Have a go, and take the prizemoney for second. That’s what he’d do.
His business shirt was untucked, as he continued to tell us his version of The Black Caviar story. I was straining to hear Greg Miles as they headed to the barriers, just as The Loudmouth declared she would be beaten one day.
The Veteran was sitting. His shirt was flannelette. He wasn’t drinking, or betting. Just watching. He’d seen plenty before. And he knew this would be special.
The Bus Driver was still in uniform. Wide as he was tall. He may have left his glasses on board. Because he kept getting up, to check the tote odds. Then he’d sit down. And get up. And sit down. Did he think she would blow out late, so he could plonk the day’s fares on her?
The Young Blokes couldn’t stop smiling. Two of them. They wouldn’t have known Phar Lap. Or Kingston Town. They would still have been in school when Makybe Diva was winning Cups.
But they knew Black Caviar. Both were texting about her, and laughing. The Veteran gave them a look. They didn’t notice.
One minute to race time. I looked around the pub. A table of twenty-somethings with caps on backwards were facing the other way. Others, too, ignoring the moment. If only the Loudmouth had time to tell them what they were missing out on.
As she jumped from barrier one, someone behind the bar turned the volume up. No-one spoke. We watched, and waited.
No surprises. They went hard up front, in the hope today would be their day. It wouldn’t be.
She cruised up to the leaders. Luke was sitting with his feet on the dashboard. They were in overdrive. She was having a track gallop.
As she approached the finish line, the Bus Driver jumped to his feet. The Young Blokes laughed, and gave each other High-Fives. The Loudmouth was lost for words. For a few seconds. And the Veteran just nodded.
It was then that I realised I was clapping. Standing on the floor of the pub, applauding this amazing champion, and everyone involved with her. No-one minded.
And that was it. The night Black Caviar won her 17th consecutive race. Some were at Mooney Valley. Other in their lounge room. I was with a motley crew, in a pub, where they had Aerosmith playing before Correct Weight was declared.
Champions do that. They give us moments we’ll never forget. Wherever we happen to be. They make us smile, and clap. And nod. What’s even more fun, is that we’re all on this amazing journey together.