It was one of those times when you feel privileged to have been present at an extraordinary event.
Flemington put on a spectacle to treasure and remember and it was all because of Black Caviar, Australia’s darling of the racetrack. Again, she was front page news this morning in ‘The Age’ and no doubt other newspapers throughout the land. She had won her 23rd race in succession and had also become the first horse to win the Lightning Stakes three times in a row. Not only that, she broke the course record in doing so. Special, another great sprinting mare, had held it since 1988.
After a very complicated trip by public transport – train/bus/train/ train – I arrived at Flemington Racecourse about 1.30pm, along with a big crowd who also took the Flemington Racecourse special.
Having plenty of time on my hands, I decided I’d explore Flemington racecourse more thoroughly than I have done before. Getting to know where everything is at a racecourse is essential if you want the best vantage points for watching races and checking out the facilities. Flemington covers a wide area, so I seemed to have walked for miles around the place and was footsore at the end of the day.
Locating the stalls area, I decided to check out Black Caviar’s stall, in case she was there. A largish crowd was gathered awaiting her arrival, and soon enough there she was. Rather than staying in her stall on such a hot and muggy day, she was walked by Donna around the walking ring, observed by interested fans.
I eventually made it to the public lawn, which is trackside beside the long Flemington straight. The VRC had organised all sorts of Black Caviar activities, such as getting your nails painted in Black Caviar’s colours, or having your photo taken with a virtual Black Caviar.
There was also a Black Caviar Walk of Fame, where signs detailing each of her 22 wins were strung along a path on the lawn.
One handy thing about the Walk of Fame signs was that they threw a bit of shadow, so sitting in the shade of each were various members of the public seeking relief from the relentless sunshine. The public lawn is very exposed and lacks shady areas.
I watched a few races while waiting for the main event – the Vanity Stakes, which was won by Alzora with You’re So Good running second and Petite Diablesse, who missed the start, flew home for an eye catching third and the CS Hayes Stakes where long shot Sheer Talent scored from Force Command and Hosting.
After the CS Hayes Stakes, excitement was building for the feature race and I sought a good position near the mounting yard, on the fence beside the path where the horses proceed to the track.
The fans were massing along the fence. It reminded me of standing only rock concerts, where there is surge to the front when the main act is about to start. I ran into some people who were part of the Black Caviar Cheer Squad last year. They’d pegged out their spot close to the fence (had been there all afternoon) and vigorously defended their position when another person tried to muscle in.
Whilst the horses were parading in the mounting yard the big screen replayed all Black Caviar’s previous victories and the excitement mounted to feverish pitch.
Then the field came trotting out in order, and all were wearing saddle cloths in Black Caviar’s colours.
A big cheer erupted when the great mare came out, a different horse from the relaxed beast strolling around the walking ring earlier in the day.
And then there was the race, run at a sizzling pace.
Black Caviar jumped well, and was cruising effortlessly close to the lead for most of the race before bursting away from the pack to score by an easy 2 or so lengths from stable mate Moment of Change with the other Moody runner Golden Archer running third.
The crowd roared and clapped when she ran to the post, and cheers continued as she made her way back to the mounting yard.
Alas for the also rans, returning en masse in her wake …
Black Caviar paraded in the mounting yard for a short while after, and was greeted by a very happy Peter Moody…
…and given a bucket of water.
After Black Caviar left the scene, the was nothing much else to do but go home.
Before I did so, I photographed two other very famous racehorses – Makybe Diva and Phar Lap. I dare say there will be a statue of Black Caviar before too long, most probably at Caulfield her home track.
It was one of the best days I’ve had at the races. Even though there was a big crowd, it was civilised and polite. I did not witness any loutish behaviour. It was made up of families and people down from the country for the day. There was a friendly and cheerful atmosphere - nothing like the drunken hilarity of the Spring Carnival bunch - and everyone was there for one thing – Black Caviar – the rock star racehorse.