Easy pickings … super sprinter Black Caviar is unlikely to face too many obstacles at Flemington on Saturday. Photo: Mal Fairclough
IT IS unclear how many horses Black Caviar will encounter when she steps out onto a racecourse for the first time in almost eight months in the race which now bears her name, the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes on Saturday.
Nominations for the 1000-metre group 1 sprint down the Flemington straight closed on Monday morning, with 13 horses named as potential rivals.
But there are several of those who are expected to be steered towards alternative engagements rather than risk having their spirit crushed by the world champion, despite the fact that prizemoney for the feature race is paid down to eighth position.
So Racing Victoria has re-opened nominations for the race, giving owners and trainers another 24 hours, until 10am on Tuesday, to get an entry in - even if they are only running for second prizemoney, which is a tidy $90,000.
Without Black Caviar - whose rating of 130 is miles ahead of the other entries - the Lightning would shape as a pretty competitive event.
She has 24 points (more than 12 kilograms on the weight scale) in hand of the second-highest nominated galloper, stable companion Moment Of Change, also a group 1 winner.
Anthony Freedman's consistent sprinter First Command (105), which has been in cracking form during the summer, is also an entry, while Mick Price's comeback filly Samaready (104), last year's Blue Diamond winner, has been nominated even though she will reportedly settle for an easier assignment against her own age and sex in the Typhoon Tracy Stakes at Moonee Valley six days later.
Among the more interesting entries is Danny O'Brien's three-year-old colt Shamexpress.
While the son of O'Reilly only has a relatively low rating of 85, he shapes as a sprinter of considerable promise now that the stable has decided that shortcourse racing is his strong suit. Shamexpress carried a hefty 60kgs to beat a moderate field of three-year-olds on his reappearance at Moonee Valley on January 25, but proved he was group 1 standard - against his own age group, at least - when he ran third to Nechita in the Coolmore Stud Stakes on Derby Day at the end of the spring carnival.
Saturday's race will be the 23rd in Black Caviar's career and her first since she performed for the Queen last June.
After she wins it for the third successive year she will have earned $7,302,436 and maintained her perfect record.
It will be her 13th group 1 win and her eighth victory at Flemington, the scene of her first race, which she won by five lengths in April 2009 beating a horse called Kwassa Kwassa.
It will also be the beginning of the end. Black Caviar will have two more runs, probably in Sydney, the home of Neil Werrett, the man who bought her and shared her with his friends.
Then one of the greatest racing careers of any Australian racehorse could be over and Black Caviar will let down and prepare to go to stud.
Meanwhile, New Zealander It's A Dundeel has returned to Sydney to begin his Australian Derby campaign and will be seen against Pierro in a barrier trial at Warwick Farm on Friday.
The Murray Baker-trained colt won four races in Sydney last spring, including the group 1 Spring Champion Stakes. He went to Melbourne unbeaten but had his colours lowered by Super Cool in The Vase at Moonee Valley before finishing seventh as favourite in the Victoria Derby won by Fiveandahalfstar.
Pierro also went to Melbourne in the spring with a perfect record but found All Too Hard all too good in the Caulfield Guineas and again finished behind Black Caviar's half brother when the pair ran the placings in Ocean Park's Cox Plate.
All Too Hard is already up and running, adding Saturday's Orr Stakes to his Caulfield Guineas win, while Pierro's autumn campaign has yet to be finalised by trainer Gai Waterhouse.