Sunday, 24 June 2012

Sunday: quick Black Caviar thoughts

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

As one of the Dear Readers so astutely diagnosed, there was a massive post-racing crash. I was incapable of anything other than drinking the restorative claret which the Beloved Cousin cracked open. (I am in her house for a day and two nights before I go back to Scotland tomorrow.)

There is so much to say about the great Australian mare, and I want to do her justice, and my brain is not yet back to full order, so I'll write about her on the train home, when I have seven lovely leisurely hours to get the right adjectives in the right order. And she does need adjectives.

In the meantime, some very quick thoughts. There is a big fuss about the jockey and the level of the performance and the tight finish. I say: nothing that happened yesterday diminished her brilliance one iota. She was on a strange track, in a strange country, in a strange hemisphere. I hate piling on jockeys; their lives are shatteringly hard, and they are the first to get the blame when something goes wrong. Poor Luke Nolen did make a mistake; he immediately admitted it, very bravely and publicly, I thought.

Almost all great horses get beat. That is what is so extraordinary about Frankel, or, his nearest equivalent over obstacles, Big Buck's, who is currently on seventeen consecutive victories. Dancing Brave, still officially the best horse since ratings began, lost the Derby. Nijinsky was done by the narrowest of margins in the Arc. People blamed Greville Starkey and Lester Piggott bitterly for those defeats.

Quite apart from keeping them sound, a trainer has to face the mystery of the thoroughbred. There are days when they do not run their race, and no one knows why. There are days when horses which have so far been ordinary suddenly find something extraordinary. The miracle of the really great ones is consistency, but they are not machines. The reason some people call Frankel a freak, even though I rather hate that description, is that it is freakish to be at the crest and peak of brilliance every time he hits a racetrack. Yet even he had a scare at Ascot last year, when people argue Tom Queally hit the front too soon and the mighty machine almost got caught close home.

Yesterday was not a parade. The lovely mare did not destroy her field. Her jockey did make an error, when he dropped his hands too early. I think she was feeling the effects of her long journey and the strangeness of everything. Yet she still won. She looked like she won on fumes. I think she does not know how to lose and that heart and instinct and greatness of spirit carried her over the line.

And in some ways that is even more marvellous, even more thrilling, and even more touching than an imperial display of excellence. Yesterday, she showed that she was not only talented, but that she was brave and tough. I love her for it.


11 comments:

  1. Black Caviar was on our news in New Zealand last night and I thought "I know all about that - Tania told me".

    The final comment on the news was that in this instance we (N.Z.) cannot lay any claim to her. So often Australian horses are bred here but not Black Caviar.

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    1. Such a nice thing to say. If I remember rightly, you bred Phar Lap, and that is a huge claim to fame for any country.

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  2. Lots of courage all round, I thought. Luke obviously had a brain fart, but that happens to all of us at one time or another and he had the decency to be up front about it, which raises him in my estimation. Her owners took a big risk flying her over - she's gone from the Australian winter with short days to the English summer with long ones, different air, different time zone, totally new track (to both her and Luke). Most of us would still be badly jet-lagged, so major kudos to Black Caviar and her jockey....

    I've watched the youtube clip a few times now - I can see where she's let go and the ease of it. I'm constantly in awe of how slowly her legs seem to move in comparison with the other horses. What a race.

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    1. Completely agree. And Ascot is really tough.

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  3. If only the race could be run again, and Luke Nolan had the value of hindsight - what a different outcome it could have been! For the mare to pick up again the way she did, and hold on to win, shows what a great racehorse Black Caviar is, and I don't think we were able to see the best of her yesterday. The uphill finish at Ascot is very different from the flat Australian racecourses she is used to, so all credit to her! May she go on to keep her unbeaten record for more races to come!

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    1. Could not agree more. Ascot is a very stiff track with a lot of undulations and quite a hill at the end; daunting for a horse used to flat tracks.

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  4. And now they find that during the race she tore two muscles in her back. What a brave horse she is. I hope that in time, some of the (largely British) commentators who were so dismissive of her effort will revise their evaluations.

    Thank you very much for putting it in perspective. In the wake of all the emotion, it was hard for me to really come to a conclusion. It's so easy to wear rose colored glasses when sorting out all the facts about a much revered animal; am assuming that for all your passion, you retain some semblance of clarity when discussing race horses. ;-)

    Bird

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    1. Do of course attempt clarity but occasionally the love may cloud the judgement just a little and leave me partial. Most of the commentators I have read maintain their respect for the mare; everyone realises what a challenge this was for her and is delighted she is still 22 out of 22, and really thrilled that she came here. The sportsmanship of the connections is mentioned over and over, which I am pleased about.

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  5. Thanks to YouTube, I watched videos of BOTH races.
    Tears in my eyes...even so well after the fact.

    Several thoughts: Black Caviar has been injured (one a level four out of five, according to reports). Did she go beyond her "breaking point"?
    Watching Frankel (with an obviously untrained eye), I got the impression he is a bit smaller than many of his competitors. It looks like his stride is shorter. Is that possible? But OMG, what a little firecracker, fireball, powerhouse...can't think of a good enough word! That boy just LOVES to run!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Frankel is about sixteen one, I think, which is average for a racehorse. But he can look smaller in running because he drops low to the ground, and also carries his head quite low and straight. In fact, his stride is a little longer than that of most horses. For every two strides other horses take, he will take one. That may have looked a bit different on Tuesday because he was going SO much faster than everything else.

      But you are completely, utterly right about his love of running. Apparently he gets so grumpy in his box when he is not working that he has been known to tear mangers off the wall. Not sure I ever saw such fierce delight in running. :)

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