How long until we see the next Black Caviar? Ask Google Maps and it says 33 minutes in current traffic. If you use the Princes Highway route, it’s a shade less than 20 kilometres.
“What are you going on about?” I hear you ask. Well that’s how far it is from Black Caviar’s Caulfield base to Flemington Racecourse.
And at Flemington, in Mark Kavanagh’s racing stables, you’ll find a horse with the ability of Black Caviar. And would you believe, she’s never lost?
Her is name is Atlantic Jewel.
In seven starts, this four-year old mare has won at distances ranging 1100-2000m and she has two Group 1s next to her name.
Among her scalps is the four-time Group 1 winner Mosheen (whom she buried by three lengths in 2011 Thousand Guineas) and Rain Affair (the horse that set the frenetic pace in last Saturday’s TJ Smith Stakes).
Atlantic Jewel was the best three-year old filly in the world last season. And that’s something not even Black Caviar could claim at the same age.
‘AJ’ has sustained speed and a wicked turn of foot. And like Black Caviar, she covers the ground with such a big stride that it takes my breath away.
She can sprint. But the best part is she can stay as well!
This isn’t the first time AJ has been asked to step up and fill a void left by Black Caviar.
Across Melbourne, during last year’s Spring Carnival – when Black Caviar was resting in the paddock after her Royal Ascot win – Atlantic Jewel was chosen by Racing Victoria to be the ‘face of the Carnival’.
Atlantic Jewel’s picture was printed on flags. We saw her navy-blue silks in pubs, clubs, TABs and even on the streets of Melbourne.
I flew down from Sydney for September 1st’s Memsie Stakes meeting at Caulfield.
The reason I booked the short trip was to get a glimpse of Atlantic Jewel, who was due to begin her four-year old campaign in the Memsie (1400m, Group 2, weight-for-age) on the first day of spring.
At that point, I hadn’t even travelled to see Black Caviar race. That’s how good I think AJ is.
But she didn’t make it to the track. On August 15, she was ruled out of the Spring Carnival with a tendon injury.
And we haven’t seen her at the races since she won the All Aged Stakes (1400m, Group 1, weight-for-age) 51 weeks ago.
Atlantic Jewel is in a pre-training phase right now. If you head to Flemington today, you’ll find her at Mark Kavanagh’s stables, re-acclimatising to life as a racehorse.
The plan is to send AJ back to the paddock at the end of April before starting her spring preparation in early June.
The Cox Plate (2040m, Group 1, weight-for-age) on October 26 is going to be her main target.
And in that race Atlantic Jewel is likely to clash with stable-mate and Australian Cup (2000m, Group 1, weight-for-age) winner Super Cool as well as Triple Crown champion It’s A Dundeel.
Throw in probable spring clashes with VRC Derby (2500m, Group 1, three-year olds) and BMW (2400m, Group 1, weight-for-age) victor Fiveandahalfstar; quality imports Sea Moon, Fiorente, and Reliable Man; and all of a sudden the loss of Black Caviar doesn’t look as big.
Whether Atlantic Jewel is able to overcome (what will be) a 17-month layoff remains to be seen.
There is no doubt, however, that many people Black Caviar drew to the races are already lost to the sport. After all, Black Caviar transcended racing.
But to the fans waiting patiently for the next champion mare, I say to you, “she could be already here!”
She is Atlantic Jewel.