Black Caviar: an Australian heroine

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Black Caviar and strapper Donna Fisher before the start of Race 9 at Derby Day Randwick. (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)

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What’s your favourite thing about Black Caviar? Is it the way she runs very fast? Is it the way a tiny man sits on her while she runs very fast?

Perhaps it’s the way that she runs very fast in a big circle, rather than just in a straight line, so she ends up in the same place she started, instead of just running away in a straight line forever? Or maybe it’s the nice clothes she wears?

Whatever it is, we can all be agreed Black Caviar is a truly great Australian, possibly the greatest national hero we have had since Bradman, or Agro.

And here’s what my favourite thing about Black Caviar is: she’s a horse.

Isn’t that amazing? That she’s achieved all those great achievements that she’s achieved, despite all the disadvantages of being a horse.

If you’ve never been a horse, you can’t imagine how hard it is, but it’s a tough life, believe me. Tedious long rides in floats, days cooped up in cramped stables, being hit by people who seem to want you to run fast… it’s hell sometimes.

But there you go: Black Caviar, or ‘the people’s princess’ as she’s called, became a champion racehorse even though she’s a horse.

And wasn’t she gracious in retirement? A lot of legendary sportspeople tend to drag out their careers too long, desperately trying to recapture the magic even when it’s obvious it’s gone; but not Black Caviar.

She recognised the best way to go out is on top, and she did so. You have to admire her career savvy, especially given she is a horse.

And her humility! She’s not like some sportspeople who always trash-talk their opponents, bignote themselves in public and carry themselves with an air of arrogance.

Black Caviar always carried herself with quiet dignity, always showing her rivals full respect and refusing to gloat in victory, always having time for the fans, spending hours after every race signing autographs, or at least standing around with a look on her face that suggests that she definitely would sign autographs if she could, but she can’t because she’s a horse.

What’s amazing about Black Caviar is her sheer guts. There would have been times when her legs were aching, when her lungs were burning, when she wanted to give up. But she reached deep down inside herself, to that place where champions come from, and she found that little bit extra.

She took a good look at herself and said, “No! I am not giving in! I will not quit until this tiny man stops hitting me.”

And that’s what legends are made of. A great athlete is driven by more than just money or fame: a great athlete is driven by a real sense that someone wants to hurt her.

And of course Black Caviar hated to lose. She just hated it. She never said so, because as we mentioned she was terribly gracious, but you could tell. You could see it in her eyes that losing was the worst thing in the world to her.

If she had lost a race, she would have been inconsolable. Probably would have, like, stopped eating her oats or whatever. That’s what horses would do if they’re sad I guess. And she is a horse, for sure.

But where to now for Black Caviar? Well, like most great Australian sportspeople she has a few options for the direction she’ll go in retirement. Basically, she can either go into coaching, become a media pundit, or take up having sex with strangers.

In a way she’s lucky: most sportspeople don’t even get that last option. When Tim May retired, nobody so much as offered him a job having sex with strangers. Same story with Reg Gasnier.

Black Caviar mainly gets to pursue a career having sex with strangers because – and I can’t really stress this point enough – she is a horse.

So what can we say about this great champion? So many words have been written, so many lives have been changed, so many imaginations have been fired during her career, it’s hard to think of anything to add.

What do you say about a sportswoman who carried the hopes of a nation, plus one small human being, on her back? What do you say about someone who made excellence a habit rather than an aspiration? What do you say about someone who for all we know did in fact have some vague idea of what was going on?

I guess, in the end, all you can say is this: Black Caviar is a horse.

A horse.

Brings a tear to your eye.

Ben Pobjie is a writer & comedian writing on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys watching Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms.