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Caviar saves lucky Luke

Sat, 23 June 2012

Black Caviar granted Australian wishes of a victory in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot - but only in the most dramatic of circumstances with jockey Luke Nolen admitting an error of judgment in easing up prematurely.

Nolen had ridden the mare in all but three of the 22 races which comprise her outstanding unbeaten career and felt first prize was safe with around 100 yards remaining.

He was, however, left searching for the line with desperation as Moonlight Cloud and Restiadargent began to gain, and he was just a head away from calamity.

It was by a considerable margin the closest Black Caviar has ever sailed to defeat, her astonishing progression through the sprinting ranks having led her to arrive in Britain earlier this month with the reputation and entourage of a Hollywood star, and trainer Peter Moody felt she had performed a long way below her best.

Rather than being greeted by an antagonistic, Ashes-style, welcome, the giant six-year-old was cheered upon her arrival in the paddock and sent off a prohibitive 1-6 favourite against 13 rivals.

She looked a little dull in her coat but everything was unfolding according to plan for three-quarters of the six furlongs, at least to the casual viewer, as Black Caviar cruised close to the pace and hit the front a furlong from home.

At this point Black Caviar is usually beyond recall, but as Nolen sat still she began to labour and left the rider cutting a sheepish figure as he returned to a packed-out winner's enclosure.

The 32-year-old did not admit to mistaking the post, but said: "She wasn't the same horse she usually is today and her determination got her there.

"I underestimated the testing track of Ascot. She'd had enough and that big engine throttled right down. I let her idle. I thought she'd coast and I made a mistake every apprentice is taught to avoid. It's unfortunate, because we're going to talk more about my brain failure than the horse's fantastic effort.

"She's 22 from 22 and it doesn't matter how far she won by, but it was heart-in-mouth sort of stuff. I thought I'd done enough but I did need some confirmation. Imagine if I'd got beat. I'd have probably been stabbed!"