Donna Fisher: How Black Caviar changed my life forever
Black Caviar and strapper Donna Fisher before the start of Race 9 at Derby Day Randwick. (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)
Donna Fisher has been Black Caviar’s strapper for the majority of her races. She has written an article following the retirement of the horse known as ‘Nelly’.
“Well, this is my first blog, which feels a bit strange, but I’m sure there are a few things about Black Caviar, or Nelly as she is known around the stable, that people are interested in learning.
Wednesday was a hard day in the office. When Pete and the owners made the announcement to retire Black Caviar, I couldn’t hold back the tears.
I’m still a mixed bag of emotions but all-in-all it’s a good thing, because she heads to the paddock in one piece where she can relax and enjoy the rest of her life.
There was always a worry that if you kept pushing, something would go wrong, but luckily we’ve got a healthy and happy horse who will hopefully go on to have babies that we can one day see on the track.
To give you a bit of background, I first started working with horses when I was 18.
I’ve worked with great stables in the past, including Bill Mitchell and Lee Freedman, and was lucky enough to deal with some great horses like Schillaci, Doriemus, Subzero and Naturalism.
Needless to say, Black Caviar is the best horse I’ve ever worked with and will probably ever see race.
Nelly was strapped by a girl Naomi for her first four runs. I was in charge of barns A and B at the time, so when she fell out of the barriers and tore her chest muscles at her third start, I was responsible for giving Nelly her laser treatment.
Naomi left the stable shortly after and that’s when Tony Haydon, our assistant trainer, gifted me with Nelly to look after.
She’s been a big part of my life for the last four years and I’ve built a strong attachment to her. As a strapper you always have your favourite horses to look after and she was certainly one of mine.
A very laid back horse who took everything in her stride, from her treatments to media calls and photo shoots, nothing ever fazed her.
When I’d take her for a daily afternoon walk (our chiropractor was always big on walking her to keep her muscles as loose as possible with all of the niggling injuries she had), she would always stop and stare over the racetrack because she used to love looking at the course.
She was one of those types that always liked to keep her mind ticking over so I used to call her ‘Mrs Mangel’ sometimes, simply because she always had to know everything that was going on around her, just like the former resident busy-body on Neighbours.
Aside from her afternoon walks, Nelly is also a fan of listening to music. When I first started pulling her mane (or doing her hair for the non-horsey people) she’d never stand still.
It was by chance that one of the boys who was holding her for me one day had his iPod out, so we popped it in her ear and she really seemed to relax.
From then on she’d have the ear plugs in listening to the iPod while I’d pull her mane and everyone was happy. The music was always a mixed set.
My special race win with her was when she carried the top weight in the Newmarket. She really had to put in that day and it took a bit out of her.
My other two favourite wins were both TJ Smith Stakes victories. The first year she didn’t take the turn too well and then had to chase Hay List down who was at his best then, and last Saturday, because she had to do it from start to finish.
It was a battle because Luke (Nolen) had to use her energy at the start and she had to finish it off for him at the end, with no favours given.
Being away from her at Royal Ascot was tough but the reason I didn’t go is because there are 90 horses out the back here that need looking after, but the right team went away with her being Tony Haydon, Paddy Bell the track rider and Pete of course.
I sat there and watched the race and just stared at the TV screen afterwards wondering what she’d hurt.
Not knowing what she’d done or what had gone wrong had me worried because you build such a close relationship with these animals, they’re like a member of your family.
That was definitely an emotional time because she had never stopped like that before in a race, after Luke Nolen eased up on her.
I saw Luke on the Wednesday afterwards and he said you’ve got a very sore horse on your hands, so I wasn’t sure she was ever going to make it back to the track. We were all surprised that Pete got her back, let alone for three more Group 1 wins.
Black Caviar has now played her part in history, she doesn’t need to prove anything, she doesn’t owe anybody anything and 25 out of 25 is a nice number to finish things on.
I’d say I’ll be parading her on Saturday at Caulfield which will be a sad, but very proud day. The experience has been very enjoyable and she’s been a dream to work with. I’ll really miss her.”
This article first appeared on Racing Victoria’s website: ‘Caviar, my career maker’.