SOMEWHERE, sometime Black Caviar will pass the US mare Zenyatta's record of being undefeated in her first 19 races. Such a feat will strike an indelible mark in the history of Australian racing, but there is a chance that it could also forever stain her legend.
In sport, winning is everything unless it is a hollow victory, and this will certainly be achieved by concocting a race at Caulfield for Black Caviar to score a 20th consecutive win. Black Caviar has earned her reputation as the best mare and the fastest horse in the world because she continually races at the top level and always wins.
For her to gain a 20th win in anything less than the elite grade, and in such a tasteless manner given it would rob Adelaide and Brisbane of the chance of seeing her race for the record, would at the least suggest to later generations that she was gifted races. Apart from her debut in a two-year-old race in March, 2009, Black Caviar has only contested stakes races, consisting of nine group 1s, seven group 2s, and two listed races.
The clubs-generated idea, which has gained some traction in recent days with the state government embracing a Victorian ''monopoly'' of Black Caviar, is not only unsavoury but is also a statement to the other states that not only is Melbourne the home of racing, it is its dictator as well. To hijack Black Caviar from a group 1 race in Adelaide or Brisbane, and in the process tempt horses away from Sydney's autumn carnival with absurd prizemoney, comes at a time when Australian racing should be edging closer to embracing a national body to end the wastage of continual oneupmanship.
Melbourne works hard to ensure its spring carnival is financially successful and so do the other states when racing's spotlight makes its rare appearance during peak carnival time. To assume that it is more important for Black Caviar to record her 20th win in Melbourne is to undermine the legitimacy of elite racing in the other states. Seemingly, ours is bigger than theirs and we don't want them to forget it.
Image and reputation for both Black Caviar and the racing industry are not the only risks of such an idea. If a race is concocted for Black Caviar and a $500,000 purse is put up, what happens if she suffers even a minor setback in the lead-up to the race? Do you allow the second-raters to race for the life-changing prize or scrap it immediately? The sponsors would be paying for Black Caviar to race for history. A public relations nightmare for the industry either way.
Thankfully, Racing Victoria officials were yesterday backing away from the plan to attract a sponsor and stage a race at Caulfield for Black Caviar. RVL chief executive Rob Hines said that officials were keen to ''avoid being too parochial''. Her trainer Peter Moody is also wary that such a contrived event could harm Black Caviar's standing.
Zenyatta, a winner of 12 group 1 races, was beaten in her 20th start, but here is an example when winning is not everything. In her 20th and final start, she ran in the Breeders Cup Classic and her performance actually furthered her reputation. Some 20 lengths behind the second-last horse in the middle stages, Zenyatta not only caught the field, but beat them all bar one and that horse, Blame, had just a head margin on the line.
In the US, racing is well down the pecking order as far as sports are concerned, but on the back of her gallant Breeders Cup run, Zenyatta was voted the second-best female athlete of the year in the US behind skiing gold medallist Lindsey Vonn.