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Black Caviar lights up Flemington for 23rd victory

The undefeated mare smashed the track record to claim victory at the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes, named in her honour.

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IF BLACK Caviar hadn't exhausted every superlative in the racing lexicon before her comeback at Flemington on Saturday, she surely did so this time with a display of breathtaking arrogance that even the most fanciful of script writers might have only dared to dream of.

Special's track record of 55.5 seconds for the 1000 metres, set on a rock hard surface some 25 years ago in this very race - the Lightning - has been the gold standard for sprinters, an almost mythical figure that many, including the queen of the turf herself, had aspired to.

Black Caviar went close herself in that epic battle with her perennial foe Hay List last year, but they came up just short.

Jockey Luke Nolen rides Black Caviar to yet another victory.

Jockey Luke Nolen rides Black Caviar to yet another victory. Photo: Pat Scala

Surely, first up after an eight-month absence from the track, having recovered from a debilitating injury and with nothing of Hay List's calibre to push her, she couldn't come close.

Indeed, no one was thinking of track records anyway on her return to action, given what Black Caviar had been through.

It was enough for her to simply be here, to appear in front of her adoring crowd, the people for whom she truly is Australia's horse.

The people's favourite .... Black Caviar returns to the mounting yard.

The people's favourite .... Black Caviar returns to the mounting yard. Photo: Pat Scala

But not only did she win with breathtaking ease, the world's fastest sprinter set history herself, beating Special's benchmark time by eight one hundredths of a second. With Luke Nolen having barely shaken the reins, she cruised over the line in 55.42 seconds, with the sectional stopwatch showing a metronomic consistency: 31.43 seconds for the last 600 metres, 21.22 for the final 400 metres, 11.05 for the last 200.

She is already the stuff of legend, her 23 wins, her overseas success, the powerful hold she has on a whole community ensuring she will be remembered long after her racing deeds are done.

But a record time - something she had never set before, neither her trainer, Peter Moody, nor her jockey, Nolen, putting much store in feats achieved against the clock - ices the cake in perfect style.

Black never goes out of fashion, especially the vintage variety, and, rising seven, the daughter of Bel Esprit is now reaching that station in life. But on paper her effort in the race named after her (the group 1 contest is now gazetted as the Black Caviar Lightning) could be argued to be right up with her best.

Given she now scares off so many opponents it was somehow appropriate that she led home a Moody stable trifecta, beating group 1 galloper Moment of Change ($21) by an easy 2½ lengths, with Golden Archer ($41) a further 3¼ lengths back in third place.

The distances barely do justice to the ease with which the $1.10 favourite saw off her opposition. Any thought that she would be vulnerable first up after such a long absence was dispelled soon after the start when she jumped well and took a prominent position.

Ahead after 800 metres, she was never in danger and when Nolen squeezed and gave her permission to lengthen her stride she did so with the minimum of fuss.

The victory is a tribute not just to the skills of Moody, who has managed the giant mare with tenderness, care and wonderful patience, but also her owners.

It would have been very easy for them to call it a day after her narrow win at Royal Ascot last June, when she defied injury to beat the best sprinters Europe could put up against her. But they put their faith in the wonder mare and her trainer, and that faith has been vindicated.

A happy Moody kissed his wife and daughters in relief as she galloped past the post, and dared to dream she was back as good as ever.

''I am proud to have her back,'' he said.

''I said to my girls, it's the first time I have been nervous for a long time. I am just so proud of her and my team. I am getting a little bit emotional for the first time, geez, it's good to have her back.

''She's just a good news story, I am very grateful for the owners who are prepared to share her with everyone. Imagine having something this good and being prepared to share it with every bugger in Australia. What do you say. I am glad I am sweating, or you might see a tear.

''You always worry. We are on a hiding to nothing and we thought it was over, but to do that, come back and run a record, crikey, I am lost for words.''

Nolen has shared almost all of her triumphs, and in the Saturday afternoon sunlight he was happy to exhale in relief and hold young son Dane as the cameras clicked and the television interviewers and media crews, searching for that killer grab, circled.

''I think she was knocked around a bit by the heat, it was pretty warm,'' he reflected.''

The Caviar express rolls on. And, assuming she comes through this test sound and in good health, Australians will get the chance to savour her a few times more. They should take it - they may never see her like again.