Racing: Black Caviar still sparkles but jockey error almost costs victory
A long time ago, a pundit said on television that the only thing that could get a certain horse beaten was the jockey.
The words irresistibly came to mind when Luke Nolen gave Black Caviar a ride of such idiotic incompetence that she almost lost the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot yesterday.
The margin between triumph and disaster was just a few inches after Nolen gave possibly the worst riding performance in the history of Group One racing.
He completely misjudged the state of the ground and the pace of the race, failed to take the numerous opportunities to kick on and put the race to bed, and unforgivably dropped his hands and stopped riding just short of the line as he failed to see Midnight Cloud closing fast on the stands rails.
Almost too late Nolen realised the danger and picked up the reins again, and somehow Black Caviar stuck out her neck and got over the line to preserve her unbeaten record.
Her reward may well be retirement, as trainer Peter Moody felt the mare was “not 100 per cent” and that she would be returned to Australia without competing in the July Cup at Newmarket.
Had the mighty mare lost instead of winning her 22nd race on the trot, Nolen might have been flung on a barbie on his return to Australia. As it was, the mare got him out of a hole, and in fairness to Nolen he put up his hands straight away.
“I just underestimated the testing straight six here,” said Nolen afterwards. “It was pilot error, but I got away with it. It’s a shame because it’s going to overshadow her performance.” Strewth, cobber, you never said a truer word.
Any serious judge of a race will have concluded that Black Caviar could and should have won by at least five or six lengths, so easily was she going after a furlong, at halfway, and two furlongs out.
Nolen seemed content to canter along just in front, however, apparently forgetting that great jockeys such as Thierry Jarnet on Midnight Cloud never give up, even against certainties. The official distance was a head, with the other French contender, Restiadargent, just behind in third at 40-1.
Moody had stated just before the race that he didn’t care if Black Caviar won by 11 lengths or a quarter of an inch, but his grim face spoke volumes when the distance was nearer the latter than the former.
He said afterwards: “It is never about margins and never about dominance. I am an extremely proud Australian.”
It was a real shame that Nolen’s folly prevented the spectacular end that a brilliant Royal meeting deserved, but it ensured that Frankel’s utterly magnificent performance in the opening Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday will be remembered as the true highlight.
Also at Ascot, Renfrewshire trainer Jim Goldie’s Hawkeyethenoo was third at 20-1 in the Wokingham Handicap, won cosily by Irish outsider Dandy Boy, a 33-1 shot ridden by Pat Dobbs.
Simenon’s second victory of the week was a runaway performance under Ryan Moore in the closing Queen Alexandra Stakes. Camborne’s impressive last-to-first victory in the Duke of Edinburgh handicap ensured that William Buick and Moore finished the Royal meeting with five wins each, but Moore took the Golden Armband as top jockey on placings gained.
Camborne’s owner, Princess Haya of Jordan, gained her fourth victory of the meeting to top the ownership league, Frankel was King of the track and Black Caviar goes home still a Queen – just.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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