Black Caviar Lightning Stakes live blog, race preview

Justin Cinque Columnist

By Justin Cinque, Justin Cinque is a Roar Expert

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    Black Caviar will face the toughest test of her undefeated career when she lines up for the 19th time this afternoon in the 1000 metres of the Lightning Stakes at Flemington. Be sure to join us for a live blog of the race in the lead-up to the 4:10pm AEDT start time.

    Peter Moody has thrown his mare into the deep end, asking her to back up after last week’s win in the C.F. Orr Stakes, and to do so while dropping back in distance some 400 metres.

    Not only that, but Black Caviar is set to meet a field of sprinters, many of which have been set this race as their main assignment for the autumn Carnival.

    There are so many reasons why today’s Lightning Stakes, run down the Flemington straight, is such an exciting proposition.

    It is the first leg of the 2012 Global Sprint Challenge – a ten-leg series which boasts over $12M in prize money – and a new rule means that a horse can claim a $1 million bonus if they win any three Challenge legs. That is sure to garner interest from Black Caviar’s owners.

    The Lightning is the first race since the 2011 Newmarket Handicap (when she broke the weight record while almost running a track record) that Moody has asked Black Caviar to do something extraordinary – most of the time she takes it upon herself to dazzle us.

    The significant reduction in distance for Black Caviar shouldn’t be underestimated – dropping back from 1400 to 1000 metres can almost be regarded as going from a middle distance (whose minimum distance is 1401) to a sprint.

    Not only that, but Cav comes into this, the fastest race on the Australian racing calendar, after a middling Orr Stakes in which her staying power wasn’t tested when a slow early speed turned the Caulfield Group 1 into a sprint home.

    Unlike last week, you can bank on there being plenty of early speed today, and it could leave Black Caviar vulnerable at the start of the race. A slower than expected beginning is quite commonly something horses dropping back in distance have to overcome.

    Sky Channel analyst Ron Dufficy thinks the mare can only be beaten if the early pace is so unrelenting that Caviar is never really able to find her comfort zone in coming back from 1400.

    Black Caviar’s jockey Luke Nolen didn’t seem too worried about the likely fast speed in the Lightning when speaking to the media at Flemington.

    “But she’s fit and she can carve out those very good sectionals. She can run sub elevens [sub 11-second sectionals for 200 metres] for the better part of a race and if they want to match her, they can,” Nolen said of Black Caviar.

    Black Caviar is a noted star over the five-furlong trip. Her 1000-metre form is brilliant, as evidenced by her win in this race last year.

    It was a five-length win, I was reminded only a couple days ago, that I described immediately afterwards as “the best 1000-metre win I’ve ever seen.”

    Black Caviar has been presented with some pretty beatable opposition recently, but in today’s race there are undoubtedly horses capable of challenging her.

    Hay List returns after a nine-month illness-enforced layoff for a fifth encounter with the mare, and his jockey Glyn Schofield is confident of victory.

    He was quoted in the Sydney press as saying, “I’m not going to be worried or be intimidated by Black Caviar in any way.”

    “But I’ll be out there to ride my horse the best I can, give him every chance to win. If he is good enough to win, then he will. If he doesn’t, he will still run a very good race,” he said.

    It’s an honest approach from Schofield, whose Twitter account description – at least until Thursday, when it was changed – included something to the effect of “I will beat Black Caviar before I die.”

    This is clearly the best field Black Caviar has met since winning the BTC Cup at Doomben in May last year. It includes Group 1 winners Phelan Ready and Lone Rock as well as speedy duo Buffering and three-year old Foxwedge.

    Black Caviar’s eight challengers are all resuming from a spell. But it is Black Caviar who will be attempting to defy history, because it has been 25 years since a horse has won the Lightning Stakes third-up from a break.

    And while West Australian Placid Ark was third-up for his 1987 Lightning success, he came into the race fresh off the back of a seven-week let-up.

    In fact 18 of the last 21 Lightning Stakes have been won by horses first-up from a spell.

    Victory for the mare will again be historically significant as she would equal Gloaming’s winning streak of 19, the longest in Australasian racing history.

    American champion Zenyatta also ran 19 straight.

    If Black Caviar can win this afternoon, she faces the prospect of backing up again next week in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes at Caulfield over 1400 metres, but it is also possible that she could be saved for a run in Sydney or even Dubai.

    The more I think about it, the more I believe this is the day Black Caviar will be beaten if she ever does succumb. I’m wary of the drop in distance, and how she’ll cope on the back-up.

    Moody justified the decision, adamant she would be in for a serious work-out even if she wasn’t racing this afternoon. But if Caviar happened to perform poorly and get beat in a track gallop, it wouldn’t count toward her record.

    Hay List will ensure it’s more competitive than early-morning track-work for the champ. He has troubled Black Caviar (remembering not much else has), and we’re led to believe he’s flying.

    One school of thought places Hay List as the number two sprinter in the world, so on that alone we should be expecting a spectacle.

    Regardless of how close he gets to Black Caviar, it’s sure to be another memorable day’s racing at Flemington.

    Let’s hope it’s a cracking race. Don’t forget to tune in on The Roar for the live blog – just scroll down.

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    The Crowd Says (46)

    • Columnist

      February 18th 2012 @ 3:16pm
      Justin Cinque said | February 18th 2012 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

      So we’re an hour away from Black Caviar’s attempt at her 19th victory.

      It’s been a tough day for favourites so far – and you’ll be surprised how often a pattern like that continues throughout an afternoon’s racing.

      Both Driefontein and Raceway fell in, in Sydney, at prohibitive odds in the 2YO races, while the oft-brilliant Mosheen was gunned down by Shopoholic at $1.5 in 3YO fillies race at Flemington.

      They’re expecting 28,000 at FLemington for today’s meeting and it’s sure to be an exciting race.

      Hay List is a huge chance of beating of the champ today. Schofield, his jockey, has partenered HL to some brilliant seconds against Black Caviar previously. You get the feeling, with the champ slightly exposed that if he can run up to his performances in the TJ Smith at Randwick and BTC Cup at Doomben last year that he could beat the mare.

      And we haven’t had a “real” challenger for Black Caviar for a long time so it’s certainly going to be interesting for the champ. If she blows them away today she just might silence some critics.

    • Columnist

      February 18th 2012 @ 3:19pm
      Justin Cinque said | February 18th 2012 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

      In my opinion this is the greatest test in Black Caviar’s career.

      Last week I would’ve put the house on her if I was into taking odds of $1.06. Today I wouldn’t want to put counterfeit money on her at a price of $1.10. I reckon it’s poison odds.

      Only one horse in something like 25 years has come back from 1400 and won it’s next start over 1000 at a metropolitan track and that was in 2001 in Perth.

    • Columnist

      February 18th 2012 @ 3:24pm
      Justin Cinque said | February 18th 2012 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

      Plenty of history for Cav to make here today.

      Let’s recap:

      2nd horse in 25 years to win at 1000 in town after last start at 1400
      1st horse in 25 years to win Lightning third up
      Equal greatest winning streak in Australasian history – with Gloaming and Desert Gold
      Equal Zenyatta’s 19 straight wins in America.
      Equal second greatest undefeated run in horse racing (for horses that remained undefeated through their career)

    • Columnist

      February 18th 2012 @ 3:26pm
      Justin Cinque said | February 18th 2012 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

      Runners are on the track for Race 5 – the race before Caviar’s at 4:10pm. Looking fwd to seeing Caulfield Guineas winner Helmet go around.

    • Columnist

      February 18th 2012 @ 3:28pm
      Justin Cinque said | February 18th 2012 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

      Earlier today we saw the half-brother to Black Caviar, All Too Hard – a $1.025M purchase at the yearling sales, win the first race at Flemington for the 2YOs down the straight. He was super impressive for Dwayne Dunn and the Hawkes team. One to watch for sure.

    • Columnist

      February 18th 2012 @ 3:30pm
      Justin Cinque said | February 18th 2012 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

      I think it’s fantastic that Peter Moody has decided to back his mare up. It’s such a brilliant spectacle for racing. To have consecutive 20K+ crowds in Melbourne in autumn is fantastic and we’re still to have the two biggest Melb autumn meetings – the Blue Diamond next week (possible Cav appearance there too) and Super Saturday in a month from now.

      • Columnist

        February 18th 2012 @ 3:42pm
        Justin Cinque said | February 18th 2012 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

        In saying that about Moody, I thought his justification in backing the mare up – i.e. he was going to work her hard anyway – doesn’t sit well with me. What is he saying…that today’s going to be a track gallop for her? When Cav comes to the races she needs to be 100% on and I’m sure she will be (I reckon I’m just missing Pete’s point) because winning is what this girl is all about.

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