Wonder mare Black Caviar has been bringing the Australian
public back to the races in their droves during her 25
unbeaten starts. As the curtain came down on her career
yesterday, racing writer Matt Smith looked at other
thoroughbred horses who captivated the public.
Black Caviar's pulling power enticed more than 20,000 to
Randwick on Saturday for what would turn out to be her final
start, and the Australian Turf Club played its part, with
Royal Randwick festooned in the horse's colours of salmon and
The publicity campaign around Black Caviar - whose retirement
was announced yesterday - has been precise and overwhelmingly
successful. Much of this can be put down to the media savvy
of trainer Peter Moody and the owners.
Moody, in particular, has turned out to be the perfect
spokesman for the horse, making himself available to the
media at every opportunity, and taking part in speaking
engagements all over Australasia.
The mare became very used to being taken out of her box for
her latest photo shoot, and her demeanour around people made
her much more accessible than a flighty colt may have been.
The PR machine is in overdrive - Black Caviar has a Twitter
account, a website, and merchandise ranging from ties to can
coolers, iPhone covers and umbrellas.
Of course, the major reason for Black Caviar's popularity is
her winning streak, which will stand at 25 forever more.
Nothing gets people more excited than following a winner, and
feeling like you're part of the journey, even if you're never
going to make your fortune by punting on her.
But there have been plenty of other horses who have captured
the public's imagination over the years for a variety of
reasons. Here are just a few of them.
Record: 51 starts, 37 wins, 3 seconds, 2 thirds.
Even after 80 years, the battle still rages about whether
Phar Lap was a Kiwi horse or a fair-dinkum Aussie, but what
cannot be debated is his impact on Antipodean society. Phar
Lap, much like legendary Australian cricketer Don Bradman,
provided an escape from the harsh realities of life for the
residents of two countries as they plunged into the Great
Phar Lap's success right across Australia, and his last win,
in Mexico in 1932 before his mysterious death, gave his fans
something to smile about during tough times.
Much like Phar Lap, Seabiscuit was a people's champion during
the Great Depression, albeit during the latter part of the
1930s. He was a battler early in his career, failing to lead
the field home in his first 17 starts - all as a 2yr-old. In
fact, he had a staggering 35 starts as a juvenile, eventually
winning five races in his first season - a punishing schedule
for any horse.
His life has been documented in the movie bearing his name,
but his ''Match Of The Century'' win as a 5yr-old against
Triple Crown winner War Admiral ensured his place in history,
even before he won the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap in stunning
Who Haru talking about, I hear you ask? Haru Urara became a
sensation in Japan for 2003, but I can already see your eyes
flicking back to her race record and wondering why. As much
as the Japanese love a winner, they're also partial to the
quirky. You just have to watch their game shows to realise
The reasonably well-bred mare had her first race start in
1998, but it wasn't until her 80th start in 2003 when the
Japanese public cottoned on to her losing streak. She was
quickly dubbed the ''shining star of losers everywhere'' and
betting tickets with her name on it strangely became lucky
charms to ward off car accidents. She even attracted 13,000
fans to one of her races in March 2004. Her last race was in
September that year. Which, by the way, she did not win.
If you're a race horse and you've got your likeness on a
jigsaw puzzle, you have entered the mainstream. But Red Rum
did so much more than that. In his 100 starts over jumps, he
never fell once. And considering he tackled the giant fences
at Aintree five times in the Grand National Steeplechase,
that is no mean feat.
He won the great race three times - in 1973-74 and in an
unforgettable win as a 12yr-old in 1977 - and ran second on
his other two attempts. Upon retirement, he opened a
rollercoaster in Blackpool and supermarkets around Great
Britain. I'm not entirely sure whether he held the scissors
to cut the ribbons, though. He died in 1995 aged 30, and is
buried at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool.
Sure, he's an Aussie, but sometimes you have to bow to the
demands of your Australian-bred editor and include another
West Islander. He earned his spot by winning three Cox
Plates, the third in 1982 when even commentator Bill Collins
thought he was no hope with 400m to go.
Aside from being the first Australian horse to earn A$1
million, he netted an Australian record of 14 group 1 wins,
bettered only last weekend by - you guessed it - Black
Caviar. The ''King'' was ridden for 25 of his 30 wins by
Malcolm Johnston, who has now forged himself a career in the
media, being the oddball on the Australian television
programme Off The Rails.
Six wins from eight starts including two Derby wins is a good
career in anyone's book. But that's not why people care about
Shergar - they just want to know where he went. The bay colt
was a class above in the Epsom Derby, streeting his rivals by
10 lengths, and later that year, he went to stud for a future
of making little Shergars.
But two years later, he was kidnapped (horsenapped?) from
Ballymany Stud. Despite negotiations with the thieves, who
were believed to be linked to the IRA, the horse - or his
remains - were never found. Rumours suggesting the elusive
Lord Lucan will ride into town one day on the back of Shergar
are so far unfounded.
''The mare of the world'' exclaimed David Raphael as she hung
on gamely to win the Hong Kong Mile in 2000. But Sunline was
first and foremost New Zealand's mare, winning 13 group 1
races during her six seasons.
She was cantankerous, often taking bites out of strapper
Claire Bird, but that didn't stop the New Zealand public
taking her to their hearts. Sadly, laminitis claimed Sunline
at the age of 14 in 2009, and she was buried at Ellerslie
I won't lie: despite gaining a few wrinkles in my 33 years, I
wasn't around to see Carbine race in the final years of the
19th century. But, if you look at that race record, you'll
notice his record was impressive. He won the Sydney Cup as a
3yr-old, he won the All Aged Stakes twice and he won the
Melbourne Cup in 1890, carrying 66kg against 38 other horses.
If you look at the weights jockeys carry now, you'd consider
that slightly excessive, but he wasn't carrying just a few
kilograms more than the rest of the field. The second-placed
horse, Highborn, had 42kg of jockey and weights on top of
him. That's a difference of 24kg. No wonder the Kiwi-bred was
so popular with Australian race fans with tenacity and
determination of that level.
Those Americans do love a good-horse racing movie. And to be
fair, Secretariat was a pretty good choice for a subject.
Consider this: Secretariat won the Triple Crown (the Kentucky
Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes) in 1973
and his winning times in all three of those races remain as
the benchmark today.
His victory in the Belmont Stakes has to be seen to be
believed - Youtube it, if you get a chance - as he bolted
away to win by an ever-increasing 31 lengths. Many of the
tickets on Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes were never
cashed, as punters wanted to hold on to a slice of history -
although he was at a minuscule price.