Why it was more than just a win. The Mighty Mare shuts up the narks and the haters.

April 14, 2013

It’s not often you get surprised by racing people.

Salt of the earth, most of them. The older ones have pretty much seen everything.

Sure things beaten. Camels that sprout wings. Jockeys finding fast lanes, and zip-tight pockets, all on the same day.

It takes plenty to get their attention. Even more to get them excited. And that’s what happened yesterday.

I saw something I’ve never seen, in forty years of loving the racing game. It was at a pub. Not one of your fancy inner-city places. This was an old school establishment, with blokes who still eat white bread, and wouldn’t be able to name a fancy imported brew in a skinny bottle.

Like everyone else, they gathered around screens just after 5, to watch Her in action. The usual rowdy conversations stopped. All eyes were on the Number 9, in the black and salmon.

As the race unfolded, there was none of the usual boisterous barracking. It was almost a respectful silence. Until the Mighty Mare hit the front.

They cheered. Someone yelled ‘Go Girl’. Ok, that may have been me. And then, something I’ll never forget.

This crowd in stretched t-shirts and well-worn thongs, started clapping. Loud, sustained applause, in a suburban pub. They love Black Caviar so much, this mob, they couldn’t help themselves. And it was perfect.

It’s what the critics don’t get. What this champion racehorse has done to a nation.

She has reached far beyond the punters. People from all walks of life are talking about racing. They’re watching tv, and reading sports pages, to find out what’s she’s up to.

Families are going to the races to watch her. Thousands of them. Stands that have been empty for years, are packed again.

The narks choose to ignore all this. These small minded nobodies want to find fault. They want to criticise her owners, and her trainer. And it’s a disgrace.

Peter Moody is at the forefront of dragging the industry off the floor. At a time when the gambling dollar is under threat like never before, he’s become the public face of everything that’s exciting about racing.

He shares her, like a proud father shows off his favourite baby photos. Does interviews with good grace and great humour. Makes us feel like we’re on the journey with him. Which of course, we are.

Forget the rubbish you hear about her beating inferior fields. It’s utter crap. Trainers have been dodging the Mighty Mare for years now. Because they know they can’t get anywhere near her.

She demolishes anything game enough to challenge her. Believe me, there hasn’t been a horse sitting at home in a stall, that could have changed a result that she’s been part of.

They don’t hand out Group Ones. She’s won fifteen of them. Mostly untouched.

But that’s not the most telling factor in this wonderful story. Winning races is only the start of it.

She’s become part of the family. Our kids will tell their kids about a horse that could fly. Everyone will have a story, about the day they saw Black Caviar. And amazingly, the great majority will have never won a dollar on her.

She’s so good, most of us don’t need to back her. And those that do outlay something, keep the ticket to put in the pool room.

We’ll never see another like her. And we’ll never see a greater example of what really makes people go to the races.

Nothing beats seeing a champion in action. Just be thankful that those around her want to take us along for the ride. That deserves another round of applause.

The girls ready to shine as Randwick hosts a magical Derby Day.

April 8, 2011

There’s something special about the Autumn carnival arriving at Randwick.

The big money might be at Rosehill. But not the tradition.

Races that date back more than a century. Won by the very best. Horses, trainers and jockeys.

The Doncaster is my favourite. There’s something about a capacity field over that Randwick mile. The greats digging deep as they top the rise. Gunsynd. Super Impose back to back. Sunline. But that’s next week.

Tomorrow, be ready for a feast at headquarters. And believe it or not, it’s more than just the Black Caviar spectacular.

As well as celebrating the Sydney debut of the world’s best horse (she’ll make it 12 from 12 .. simply amazing), fans will focus on the 150th AJC Derby. It was first run in 1861. The same year as the inaugural Melbourne Cup. At the time the American Civil war was raging. England’s cricket team toured here for the first time. Dame Nellie Melba was born. And the original pilot for Hey Hey It’s Saturday was recorded.

Keen on winning a race with a 3-year-old? This is it. It’s worth plenty, but there are those who would run for the trophy alone. A few handy types have saluted over the years.

Phar Lap won in 1929. It was Jim Pike’s first victory on Big Red. There’d be plenty more.

Fast forward to ’57. Tommy Smith had a fair opinion of a horse called Tulloch. Rightly so. He won the Derby by 6 lengths, breaking Phar Lap’s track record.

What about these names through the seventies and eighties? Dulcify. Kingston Town. Strawberry Road. Bonecrusher. And then the mighty Octagonal in 1996.

Famous tales too. Old timers still speak of 1961, when Mel Schumacher was outed, after pulling the leg of a rival jockey. They happened to be hurtling down that famous straight at the time. He won the Derby but lost the protest, and ended up as one of racing’s most famous trivia questions.

There’ll be no leg pulling tomorrow. Not on track anyway. Fair to say this field is without a Phar Lap or Tulloch. But it’s still a talented bunch, ready to carve out their own bit of history.

The raging favourite Jimmy Choux blew them away last start in the Rosehill Guineas. The Kiwi has the inside gate tomorrow. That might not suit him, but connections still seem supremely confident.

I must admit I have a niggling doubt about the heavyweight jockey. He won like Pike two weeks ago. But I rarely put my hard earned on ex-jump jockeys from New Zealand, over an arduous 2400 metres.

There’s only one filly in the field, and I give her a huge chance. Trainer Danny O’Brien had no hesitation taking on the males with Shamrocker last start, and she’ll be even better tomorrow. The distance is no concern, and Glen Boss is up top. She’ll do me.

The smokie could be one trained by the bloke who’s seen more Derbys than just about anyone. I Think I Do will love the big Randwick straight after rattling home last start. Bart might need to clear some space on that groaning mantlepiece.

No matter what the result is tomorrow, the day will carry a tinge of sadness. Twelve months ago, Stathi Katsidis was celebrating more Group One success. He won the Derby on Gold Coast stayer Shoot Out. Greatness beckoned. A few months later he was dead.

There are many in the industry still scarred by the tragedy. Memories will come flooding back tomorrow. A day with so much history, that would be so much better if he was still around to be part of it.