With a spontaneous applause following her every move past the stands and the nervous flicker of flags and scarves from a crowd full of fans, admirers and starstruck bystanders; it was time for Black Caviar to show the world what she could do outside of Australia. A perfect 21-for-21 in her homeland, Black Caviar has shipped 10,000 miles in a 30 hour trip to compete in one race - the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot - and began to canter to the start leaving her trainer, Peter Moody, carefully tracking her every move from his position by the winning post as she began to edge further away from him and ever closer to the start. This is race number 22 for Black Caviar in a career where she has little more to prove, she has given Australia the biggest boost their sport of horse racing could ever have hoped for and has propelled race fans across the globe into a sense of unparalleled loyalism. Such is that unparalleled loyalism that a packed crowd fill Federation Square in Melbourne to watch their greatest ever mare - rivalled only by Makybe Diva. It is 00:45, past the bed time of many a fan but this is Black Caviar and a once in a lifetime opportunity to see her victorious against their British rivals at a game they do best. Installed into the gate tight on the rail, Black Caviar and Luke Nolen stare down the Ascot straight course in tandem with their sights firmly set on their finishing position. As the final few began to edge into the gates, 'Nelly' received her finally piece of encouragement from her familiar stable hand who remained seated on the partition between the stalls, brushing her mane from side to side. The final horses had made their way into the gates, Society Rock - albeit uneasy in the stalls - had settled after the cries of Johnny Murtagh for the starter to hold for a split second as his horse settles fully again; The gates fly open and Black Caviar sets off on her attempt to win on foreign soil. Nobody could've imagined the final furlong. Having settled well outside of Bogart, Black Caviar has pulled her way to the front of the race with two furlongs to go and Nolen began to ask her for her effort to conclude the victory. Unlike the Black Caviar familiar to many racefans, the response did not seem to be immediate but sufficient to take a couple of lengths out of her under performing field. Like Frankel on Tuesday, Black Caviar had every rival at work and looked to have put the race to bed until the French challenge of Moonlight Cloud and Restiadargent began to fly home along the rail to Black Caviar's left. Expectation is a volatile emotion and it is fair to say that Luke Nolen didn't expect a challenge to this wonder mare within the final furlong, virtually easing her down to a canter as is so often the case in her Australian races but this time something was flying at her towards the finish. Nolen realised late, in the shadows of the post and began to push vigorously with yards to go but no matter what he did it would not be enough to encourage Black Caviar to restart her engines and start right back up at top gear - Moonlight Cloud was coming faster than ever before, faster than Black Caviar had ever encountered and lowered her head on the line to force a photo finish in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Gasps rung out around in the Ascot stands and could be heard from as far away as Federation Square; had Black Caviar been beaten?
Sometimes fortune favours the luckless but it also favours mistakes, Black Caviar had held on to her perfect record by an ever decreasing margin from Freddie Head's Moonlight Cloud and Nolen took a sigh of relief. Despite the over exuberant belief that Black Caviar had done enough she hadn't and had won the race all on her own with heart, determination and sheer guts to keep going despite her engine being powered down. Melbourne could celebrate, Australia could celebrate and the plethora of fans who had travelled all the way to Ascot on trains packed full of pink and black attire since the early hours of the morning could say 'I was there'. Was Luke Nolen at fault? He admits he was but he was more at fault for having belief in a mare he had partnered to 18 previous victories. Black Caviar is his friend, his leading lady and a horse who he harbours exceptional belief in. The best partnerships always help each other out and on a day when Nolen admittedly wasn't at his best, Black Caviar helped him out and he's fully entitled to celebrate the victory with the same elation that an eleven length success would've provided.
It's incredible how a filly or mare can exert that sense of loyalism and intrigue from both regular horse racing fans and crowds never seen before with the mythical stature surrounding their presence. Across the globe, Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta and Goldikova had all preceded Black Caviar and each one of them had provided moments of elation and moments full of heart palpitation - that's just another part of the excitement and rollercoaster-ride that comes with following a great horse. If a fear that one day the horse may get beat isn't there then where's the fun in watching procession after procession? Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta and Goldikova have all been and gone and it is ironic that just months after Goldikova retired to stud, Freddie Head was back again with another filly who almost snatched the prize from Black Caviar. Moonlight Cloud will be back, she may even be the heir to Black Caviar's filly crown, but for now it's time for Black Caviar and her connections to savour victory. Peter Moody was honest; he was worried from a few furlongs out that she was not travelling with her normal exuberance and retirement may now beckon if she cannot get over the stress of travelling to the UK. She is a filly who has had niggling injuries all through her career and the stress and tribulation of a long journey from her homeland may have had more of an effect that connections believed. With the Newmarket July Cup off the agenda, Moody now looks to ship his wonder mare home to Australia with the Patniack Farm Classic the target if she does recover from her exertions.
Black Caviar came, she conquered and she remained undefeated; That's what'll go down in the record books and nobody can take that away from her. Safe trip home, Nelly.