Still unbeaten, just. Still a heroine, justly

Jockey Nolen admits 'brain-fade' after miracle mare has to pull out all the stops

Ascot

There are occasions when the result outshines the performance, and this was perhaps one. The Australian sprint sensation Black Caviar, a horse with her own website and marketing machine, an animal whose fans back home packed Federation Square in central Melbourne in the small hours of a freezing winter night to watch her take on Europe's finest in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes here yesterday, duly took her unbeaten record to 22 in the six-furlong dash.

But there was none of the overweening dominance, the solo tour de force, that her reputation had led the Royal Ascot full house in the grandstands, and those who had backed her to 1-6 favourite, to expect. It was by only a matter of inches that she prevailed, hanging on as her rivals, headed by Moonlight Cloud, bore down.

Afterwards her rider, Luke Nolen, who had sent the mare into what appeared to be a comfortable enough lead inside the final quarter-mile, fronted up and took the blame.

"I let her idle through the last 200 [metres]," he said, "and I underestimated just how stiff a track this straight six furlongs is, and also the opposition. And I shit myself duly. And I'm afraid my brain-fade might be talked about more than this mare's fantastic effort."

And a fantastic effort it was, make no mistake. Leaving aside the fact that she is unbeaten – and only one horse in racing history has a better perfect record, the 19th century phenomenon Kincsem with her 54 victories – for any horse to race 22 times over four years at elite levels is laudable. This one has travelled halfway round the world into an unfamiliar time zone and season, her body-clock and biorhythms out of synch without a human athlete's ability to reason why, to put her record on the line.

In the preliminaries, her strength and athleticism was there, but her dark bay hide looked wintry compared with her rivals' summer sleekness. And although she travelled sweetly enough through the first half of the race, there was maybe a spark missing.

"She didn't take her usual tug," said Nolen, "she wasn't taking me to the line, I had to ask her to find it. Yes, I was at fault, but when I relaxed on her – I thought I'd done enough, and that's an error every apprentice is taught not to do, and I got away with it – that big engine seemed to shut right down.

"I tried to get her going again in the last strides and it was only her determination when the other horses came to her that kept her in front. She just didn't bring to the races today what she usually can and I'm just disappointed that you over here didn't get to see just how good she is."

Black Caviar's narrowest victory after her greatest adventure may have been her last appearance in anger on a racecourse. The six-year-old's Melbourne-based trainer, Peter Moody, as relieved as any that the head-bob result did not spell anticlimax, will not go to the well again if she indicates she has had enough.

"Watching the race, I was concerned half a mile out," he said. "She was never travelling as keenly and strongly as she does at home. She seemed in control of the race, but she wasn't upon the bridle, didn't have her ears pricked. She just didn't show zip, and after the race she was out on her feet, so she's done one hell of a job."

No decision will be made about Black Caviar's future until she returns to Melbourne and the start of the Australian spring season. "This was always going to be the greatest risk of her career," said Moody, "as it came at the end of a long season and the end of a long trip.

"She's nearer the end than the beginning and for the last five or six runs we've been prepared to accept each might be her last. She's had niggly injuries and we've had to look after her carefully. If we'd pushed for margins and ratings her career might have been over a long time ago. And whether she wins by a quarter of an inch or a quarter of a furlong it's still a win, and they're not going to give us any more prize money."

Black Caviar may not have ended this week's meeting in the runaway fashion that another who has entered Turf folklore, the local unbeaten champion Frankel, started it. But even if her presence and spark was missing yesterday, she is still a great horse, with a great horse's racing will.

"It was all heart-in-the-mouth stuff today," added Moody, "and she didn't let us down. She's done Australia proud and she's still undefeated." Perhaps, after all, the performance did measure up to the result.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Masterchef cooks Tony Rodd (left), Emma Spitzer (second left) and
Simon Wood (right) posing with judges Gregg Wallace (centre) and John Torode (second right), as the three will be seen cooking their hearts out in the hopes of winning the show.
TVReview: Tired Geography teacher John Torode and shaved Scotch egg Gregg Wallace crown the champion
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week
voices
Life and Style
life
News
The Grand Palais in Paris will be transformed into a 4,000-seat cinema, with 44 double beds at the front
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road