It was really brought home at Caulfield Racetrack yesterday, that this was the last time we would see Black Caviar in the flesh. The overall sentiment was sadness and everyone who was present would acknowledge that it was a moving occasion. Many were in tears, and even tough old me felt emotional and had to swallow hard after Black Caviar had trotted down the Caulfield straight for the last time.
I arrived at the track shortly before midday, and headed straight for the stalls area to await the arrival of the great mare on the course. There was already a gathering of fans outside Stall 3 where she was allocated, and even though we had to wait for almost an hour, everyone was in good spirits. There was a woman in a wheelchair who seemed to be on first name terms with the clerks of the course and engaged in light hearted banter with them. They are grizzled old horsemen with a penchant for dry wit. When someone asked one of them the name of his horse, he quipped “Grey Caviar”.
Peter Moody turned up in a jovial mood and obligingly signed memorabilia and cheerfully posed with fans for photos. I was delighted to be there at the right time, having on the off chance brought along a couple of race books to be signed should the occasion arise. He signed them, along with yesterday’s race book which had a mini fold out poster inside, and also the somewhat larger poster that was handed out at the entrance gate.
As I’d got there early enough I managed to secure a prime position on the fence. Next to me was a disabled guy who levered himself up from his lie back bike to hang on the fence. On his other side was a friendly Canadian woman. Black Caviar fans come in all shapes and sizes, old and young, country and city folk.
Eventually Black Caviar arrived, but only spent long enough in her stall to be fitted out in a special rug in her colours with her name and the words “Thanks for the memories” inscribed on it.
Donna led her out from the stall to the walking ring, followed by the fans en masse. Whilst there Donna allowed the fans plenty of access to the mare, pausing as she walked around the ring, to allow people to pat her. Black Caviar took all this attention in her stride. She’s a remarkably laid back and good natured horse.
I managed to pat her three times in all over the afternoon and I am here to report that her nose felt soft and silky.
There was understandably a larger than usual crowd for such a low key race meeting, the majority of the attendees I presume Black Caviar tragics like me.
The ceremony to farewell Black Caviar was scheduled to occur shortly after Race 4, so I went to the public lawn to secure a spot on the fence to watch her parade.
The ceremony entailed several speeches from Gerard Whateley, Peter Moody, Caulfield Racing Club chairman and the Victorian Premier Denis Napthine. Then Luke climbed aboard the wonderful mare for a final time and trotted her the length of straight. She was wearing a special saddlecloth with BC25 as the number.
We all gave her three cheers and a round of applause. There were tears and smiles, but everyone was moved by it all.
At the end of the parade Black Caviar objected to returning to the mounting yard, feeling cheated of the good gallop she normally had to perform when on the track.
Luke wept, Donna wept and it was all over.
Not quite, as Black Caviar was back in the walking ring a short time later and the fans were again given a chance to say goodbye.
As you can see, she was right in front of me, eyeball to eyeball.
*I noticed that yours truly made it into footage on Racing Victoria TV, which captures the moment before I took the above photo. The hand on Black Caviar’s nose belongs to the child leaning forward in the below shot. I’m the person in the bottom right corner of the picture with the camera.
I felt reluctant to leave, putting off the final goodbye as I watched the adoring crowd surround her for one last pat.
Eventually I tore myself away and returned course side to watch the running of the Sydney Oaks on the big screen. Royal Descent won it by a ten length margin.
Before leaving for home I snapped a picture of one of the jockey statues outside the Caulfield Racetrack Office, whose silk colours reflect the winner of the Blue Diamond Stakes – Miracles of Life, a filly who is yet to be beaten. She’s currently spelling, but will return in the spring. How long can she remain unbeaten? It would be a long shot guess that she could emulate the great mare and score a perfect 25.
And so ends a magic era in racing. It only lasted four years, but Black Caviar leaves the scene in perfect condition with a perfect record. It has been an extraordinary time to live if you’re a racing fan. Peter Moody is to be congratulated for his wise and patient handling of the Black Caviar phenomenon. He sets an example to other trainers who would push their charges beyond their capacity and end their careers early.
* This photo and commentary were added 24 April 2013.