This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Anthony Sharwood of The Daily Telegraph…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
Pie eaters cheer, the Black Caviar has been served
IN horse racing, the term “pie eater” is an old-fashioned, gently derogatory term for hard-bitten punters. Pies are all they can afford after their weekly pay cheque has yet again put Sunday roasts on the bookies’ dinner tables.
Well, the pie eaters of Australia have suddenly developed a taste for Black Caviar. That’s Black Caviar, the mighty mare who at the weekend made it 18 wins from 18 starts in her most devastating outing yet.
Black Caviar attracted 20,000 infatuated racegoers to Caulfield on Saturday, the majority decked out in her salmon-and-black racing colours. Twenty thousand, to a meeting that would usually attract a quarter that. With the gates sensibly thrown open for free, they flocked to see the champion, who paraded around as if she knew.
In his poem Do They Know?, Banjo Paterson once poignantly asked whether good horses know they’re good. He answered the question with a definitive “you bet they do” in the last six lines.
They know just as well their success
As the man on their back.
As they walk through a dense human lane
That sways to and fro.
And cheers them again and again,
Do you think they don’t know?
The lines were penned more than 100 years ago, but they could just have easily been written on Saturday.
The crowd swaying after the race. The horse lapping up the attention, jockey Luke Nolen revelling in it but admitting that his job was pretty much as simple as “not falling off”.
Thunderous isn’t the word for the applause. Rapturous, more like it.
More and more, racing is a cold, mercenary numbers game these days.
The TAB is little more than a poker machine, with races from New Zealand in the morning and the northern hemisphere long into the night.
Each race is as unromantic as a spin of the pokie reels. The horses are mere names and numbers, as anonymous and unheroic as the binary zeroes and ones which underpin the computer betting programs.
And then occasionally a champion comes along and reminds us all that racing is a magnificent endeavour. That it is, in the purest terms, a sport.
In the first decade of this century we had two jolting reminders of that.
One was the sprinter Takeover Target, the broken-down old hack bought for $1200 by Queanbeyan cabbie Joe Janiak, who lived in a caravan on Queanbeyan racecourse which was covered in pine needles.
Takeover Target won in every mainland state of Australia, blitzed them at Royal Ascot and banked $6 million, which, it’s safe to say, is more than the cab takings in Queanbeyan on a Saturday night.
And then there was Makybe Diva, the stayer who won an unprecedented three straight Melbourne Cups from 2003 to 2005. After the third, trainer Lee Freedman urged us to “go and find the smallest child on the racecourse”, his inference being that they would never see the mare’s equal no matter how long they lived.
But in Black Caviar, we have something even more special. In a word, it’s dominance. It’s the way she wins. The way her victories never, ever look in any shadow of a doubt.
Makybe Diva used to bury herself away in the pack before unleashing that devastating acceleration. Even her staunchest supporters had their hearts in their mouth during the race.
The best place to watch a Black Caviar race is from the bookie’s payout queue. That way, you don’t have to wait long when she inevitably wins. But the point is, she never for a moment looks anything but the winner at any stage of her races. She really is just a class above.In the ’90s, my favourite horse was Octagonal. He won a Cox Plate and nine other Group 1s and was a joy to follow. But he was a scrapper. A real street brawler. He always seemed to be involved in warfare with one horse or another until he miraculously stuck his nose in front on the winning post.
Black Caviar always looks in control. That acceleration. There’s something machine-like about it. To the jockey, it must feel like revving a Porsche against a field of Kombi vans. The owners must feel as coldly assured of a win as the bean counters upstairs in the casino.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?