Champions deserve only recognition

Back at Royal Randwick and with a champion’s presence on Saturday, does it get any better?

Headquarters is the field of scintillating memories, and Black Caviar, in the T.J. Smith, promises to add to them if Peter Moody deems to get her hooves wet should the circumstances arrive.

Black Caviar carries the title champion but that doesn’t satisfy many. ”Better than Tulloch and Kingston Town” has been mentioned but how can a sprinter, untested beyond 1400 metres, be compared to the two most effective over considerably longer journeys?

“Obviously Black Caviar is a champion. But as a racing fan I am left with a slightly sour taste with the way she is constantly and unnecessarily mollycoddled, and protected from possible defeat and injury,” emailed Jason Keegan.

“Moody has stated if the track is wet this Saturday he may scratch. I understand the desire to protect her unbeaten record but as I am sure you would agree a true champion does not skirt the strongest competition nor the most difficult conditions against such.

“So what if she lost? It will not diminish her memory. Allan Border is remembered as a true champion because he performed so gallantly against the mighty West Indies and the great and most fearsome fast attack of all time. There are many more similar sporting analogies. Her finest victories are when she defeated Hay List in the T.J. Smith and the Newmarket when we had a real contest. I do not remember many of her other victories.”

However, Moody, on Racenet, was defensive regarding the depth of performances from her 24 straight wins for which the trainer has been the catalyst: she has rarely been out of the comfort zone in distance, track condition and well-being. This is more credit than criticism.

”She’s now beaten 35 individual group 1 winners, and they have [yet] to beat her,” Moody said. ”We’re not talking shit saying that. She’s beaten Golden Slipper winners, Cox Plate winners, Caulfield Cup winners, she’s beaten them all. I’m respectful of that, and if they’re not respectful of her, that’s their issue.”

Saturday’s Randwick reopening after $160 million spent on a grandstand and the ”Theatre of the Horse” should be another chapter in the remarkable history of what was described by British author Nat Gould in the 19th century as “one of the finest racecourses in the world” and “a place where the secretary has succeeded in his endeavours to keep loose women off the course”.

Great past events at Randwick come to mind.

In 1879, the Australian Jockey Club gave permission for Siegfried Franck to test the first pari-mutuel (tote) at Randwick. It operated on the AJC Plate, and was won by hot favourite Chester, a champion.

Hopefully, Black Caviar backers get a better dividend. Punters who invested a pound on Chester received only 18 shillings back, and the state government barred the tote and threatened legal action against Franck.

Randwick has always brought the best out in jockeys as well as horses. Consider 1969 when George Moore won 15 of the 29 races staged at the Easter carnival, then at its rightful home.

Moore and his partner in success, Tommy Smith, would have attempted to hatch a plan, all fair and above board, to bring Black Caviar undone.

Certainly not to the degree of the most infamous Randwick ride, by Mel Schumacher on Blue Era, when he impeded Summer Fair with an iron-like grip on rival Tom Hill’s leg in the 1961 AJC Derby.

It appears unlikely any rival will get close enough for long enough to Black Caviar to get any sort of grasp, but at the worst she will fare better than Shannon in the 1946 Epsom. Shannon, too, looked unbeatable to take his second Epsom, but was left at the open barrier and beaten a head. The circumstances instigated one of the wildest Randwick demonstrations seen against Darby Munro. Later the starter admitted liability for the calamity.

Finally, in 1947, barrier stalls were installed at Randwick.

Tulloch and Kingston Town showed their greatness and durability in the Randwick autumn.

On April 5, 1958, Tulloch beat Prince Darius by 20 lengths in the St Leger (2800m). Four days later, he notched the All Aged Stakes (1600m), accounting for Doncaster winner Grenoble, and on April 12 the Queen Elizabeth (2200m).

Kingston Town followed his Tancred (2400m) triumph on March 29, 1980, with the AJC Derby on April 7 and Sydney Cup five days later. Incidentally, Kingston Town was beaten only once at Randwick when pocketed down the straight in the 1982 Chelmsford. Jockey Malcolm Johnston cried after the defeat.

When weighing up the greats, ponder on this advice: “Champions don’t deserve to be compared, just recognised.” – Bart Cummings.

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