Caviar still queen despite Ascot
SHE has captured the country's imagination like just a handful of champions before her.
And now wonder mare Black Caviar may have run her last race.
After almost losing her unbeaten career record in race No 22 at Royal Ascot yesterday morning Australian time, the mare is now in quarantine and preparing to return to Australia.
Whether her reputation was enhanced or brought into question by the narrowest of victories in the Diamond Jubilee is something only time will tell.
But what wasn't up for debate was the blunder made by jockey Luke Nolen.
Sensing she was just a shadow of her normal self, Nolen eased up on her inside the last 100m only to have to push her out hard when two French challengers surged on her outside.
"I underestimated just how stiff a track this straight six furlongs is, and also the opposition," Nolen said. "She didn't take her usual tug ... she wasn't taking me to the line, I had to ask her to find it.
"Yes, I was at fault. When I relaxed on her I thought I'd done enough. That's an error every apprentice is taught not to do, and I got away with it.
"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."
Trainer Peter Moody said while all had looked well in the lead-up to the race, he knew something was wrong not long after the field jumped.
"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 up on the bridle, didn't have her ears pricked.
"After the race she was out on her feet, so she's done one hell of a job."
Moody said no decision would be made about Black Caviar's future until she returned to Melbourne.
"This was always going to be the greatest risk of her career, coming at the end of a long season and the end of a long trip," he said.
"She's nearer the end than the beginning ... 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.
"She's done Australia proud and she's still undefeated."