Nolen defends his handling of Caviar


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The Independent Online

Having initially kept his head down on his return to Australia, Luke Nolen has now raised it over the parapet to show his compatriots the residual hurt of that extraordinary, bittersweet experience on Black Caviar at Ascot last weekend. The jockey, who flirted with disaster by easing down the record-breaking mare in the closing stages of her daring raid on the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, seemed to remain torn between self-reproach and resentment. "It took me a few cans on Saturday night to get right with it," he admitted.

Nolen had proved reclusive on his first day back in Melbourne, even after riding an immediate winner at Caulfield for Black Caviar's trainer, Peter Moody. Local press described a "solemn, troubled and angry figure". But he promised to face the cameras and microphones at Mornington racetrack yesterday morning, and duly gave vent to his frustrations – both over his narrow escape, and its unsparing coverage. If only by the skin of her teeth, the bottom line was that Black Caviar's unbeaten streak remained intact after 22 races. And her failure to coast home, as Nolen had expected when easing up, could be explained by the subsequent discovery that she had torn muscles in her hindquarters.

"My ride being the story of the day didn't sit well with me," Nolen said. "Unfortunately, that's my cross to bear. We can't get yesterday back – and she's won 22 straight. That should have been the story. It's way too much press, all round the world, on the ride itself. It wasn't my best. It was probably one of my worst. But the fact is that I haven't ridden her any different in 19 starts [together]."

Nolen argued that his tender riding of Black Caviar has contributed to her longevity. "I've always let her coast, because we always look after her," he said. "I thought I had an advantage great enough. Because she wasn't herself, the anchors obviously came on pretty quick and I was lucky to escape.

"I have to take full responsibility for the ride overshadowing [Black Caviar]. That's the only real disappointment. It should have been a celebration of one of the greatest horses we've ever seen."

Jockeys must always tread a fine line, being conversely liable to charges of being too hard on their mounts. Adam Kirby's breach of the whip rules on Reckless Abandon at Royal Ascot last week yesterday earned him a 21-day suspension from the British Horseracing Authority.

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