I was not sure what to expect when I ventured to Moonee Valley Racetrack last night (or evening to be more exact) to participate in the Official Black Caviar Cheer Squad.
The weather was perfect for a night at the races, warm with a slight sea breeze.
Catching the Westgarth to Moonee Valley bus, I alighted at the track and walked up the hill, and around the corner a bit, to Moonee Valley Legends, a drinking and gambling establishment that is situated alongside the track, to check in to the Cheer Squad. My attitude was to play it by ear, go with the flow and appreciate the unusualness of the situation.
What ensued was one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve spent at the races and volunteering for the Cheer Squad was the definitely correct decision as it turned out. Moonee Valley racing club had seriously underestimated crowd attendance; it had grown to Cox Plate numbers by the fourth race. Apparently there were huge queues for everything, including racecourse entry, so the MVRC ended up opening the gates and admitting the patrons for free. There were quite a few peeved customers who had already paid for admission.
Back at Legends, all was cheery and bright, as the squad checked in.
After check in we each received a tee-shirt, a race book, and a couple of drink vouchers and were told to wait around for further instruction.
So while racetrack patrons were queuing for drinks, bets etc., we in the Cheer Squad were happily imbibing the complimentary “crownies” (Crown Lager beer) or bubbly or whatever else was offered.
I struck up a friendship with a couple of other loners (like me) so a big hello to Brett and Debbie if you read this. We sort stuck together for the rest of the cheer squadding action.
As we had to turn up at Legends at 5.00pm, it was a hour or so before the squad had to do their thing. Shortly after the second race, we all assembled at the gate that leads onto the racecourse and were given masks and flags.
I was expecting rehearsals of chants or something like that, but not so.
The march down the hallowed straight into the setting sun, was somewhat shambolic, and nobody chanted much, probably because there were so many cheers to choose from. The most popular, and easiest to remember, was “Caviar, Caviar, Caviar, Oie Oie Oie”.
By that time of course we were all warmed up and rowdy, no doubt due to the complimentary crownies etc, so it wasn’t a total shemozzle.
At the end of this, shortly before the third race, we were settled in the grandstand in reserved seats. This was a newish experience for me as I normally hang out on the public lawn, but I must admit the view was great for watching the races.
After that we were free agents for half an hour or so. I decided to go and check out the parade ground. I noticed that the general public were being admitted to Black Caviar’s stall area. She was allocated in Stall 54 according to the race book, so there I went, and actually managed to acquire a good position on the fence.
We had to wait awhile until the great lady arrived, meanwhile watching Peter Moody saddle up Doubtful Jack, his other runner in Race Four – the Australia Stakes.
Soon enough the great mare arrived to be accoutred for the race. By this time a fair crowd was assembled to try and capture her on camera.
She was pretty toey in the stall, but settled once she reached the parade ground.
I was late getting back to the grandstand and the cheer squad, but didn’t want to relinquish my spot by Black Caviar’s stall. However, I wasn’t too late for the pre race cheers, which were more enthusiastic than the earlier cheering effort up the straight.
And then there was the race. Of course she won; her seventeenth in succession. The margin between her and Zedi Knight, who ran second, was 4¼ lengths and was only.11 seconds off Miss Andretti’s course record. Watching her run, she doesn’t seem to be going that fast, she kind of floats – it’s so effortless.
Naturally the crowd went wild; after all most of them were there because of Black Caviar, as the rest of the card was pretty uninteresting. In fact I didn’t have a bet at all.
It was great night’s entertainment and I am very glad I took part in the Black Caviar Cheer Squad. It was intimated that those who were selected for the squad may get to do it all again at Caulfield in a fortnight when Black Caviar contests the C F Orr Stakes. If that is the case, I’ll have no hesitation in being part of the squad again. Thanks very much to Racing Victoria and Black Caviar Inc for the opportunity to be part of the Black Caviar farewell tour.
I didn’t hang around after Black Caviar’s race, so headed for the taxi rank. On the way I decided to visit Manikato’s memorial. I was unaware that he was buried at Moonee Valley, until Debbie, who I befriended in the squad told me about it. Manikato was one of the great sprinters in Australian racing history and a legend of the turf. He won the William Reid Stakes five times and of course now has a Group One race named in his honour.
On my way out of the racecourse, I came across these ‘absolutely fabulous’ ladies who kindly struck a pose for the following photograph.
A colourful way to end a splendid evening.
Unfortunately, being up in the grandstand is not ideal for taking photos of the action, so even though I did get shots of Black Caviar winning the Australia Stakes, they are noisy and not worth showing. If I’d been on the fence no doubt I could have done better as the light was good, twilight not occurring until about 9.00pm.