Written by Max Milward
Royal Ascot is more famous for glamorous hats than it is for the exploits of its equine participants. But this year things could be very different, as the two greatest racehorses in the world descend on the Berkshire track and put their phenomenal records on the line. Frankel, who is fast becoming a household name, has an unblemished record of 10 consecutive victories in the UK, while connections of the Australian wonder-horse Black Caviar will be hoping she can add to her astonishing unbeaten tally of 21.
Unfortunately for organisers at Ascot, Frankel and Black Caviar have very different profiles and will not line up against each other. Instead, the former takes part in the opening race of the five-day festival, the Queen Anne Stakes over a distance of one mile. Black Caviar, on the other hand, is a sprinter and will not be seen until the Saturday’s six-furlong Diamond Jubilee Stakes. But this is not cause for despondency. For as mouth watering as such a clash would be, no one wants to see a great horse beaten, and sports fans have been given the chance to see two great champions continue their groundbreaking winning streaks.
Over the last five years, Black Caviar, who is trained by Peter Moody in Melbourne, has amassed a total of $5,771,050 (about £3,700,000) in prize money and achieved unprecedented fame down-under. It is believed that around 5,000 of her native supporters will make the trip to Ascot and few are expecting anything other than a first-class performance. The pressure is high in the Black Caviar camp.
What is most extraordinary about Black Caviar is the ease with which she handles her racing life. She has already won five times this year (four more than Frankel) but it is not only the frequency of racecourse appearances, it is the effortlessness with which she seems to dispose of her top class rivals. It takes a seriously good horse to get Black Caviar’s jockey Luke Nolen to even move a muscle, let alone work hard aboard this equine speedster.
Frankel is a beautifully bred son of Galileo (the stallion not the scientist) and is trained in Newmarket by the legendary trainer Sir Henry Cecil. To give the horse his due, running over a longer distance means that Frankel requires more recovery time than Black Caviar and he is fully expected to have at least three more engagements after Tuesday.
Sir Henry Cecil’s colt rose to prominence during an impressive two-year-old season in 2010, but he came of age in last year’s 2000 Guineas with one of the best classic winning performances of the modern era. It is no surprise, therefore, that he is already rated - by racing enthusiasts that is - as one of the greats. But perhaps because of his lighter campaign, Frankel has yet to capture the hearts of the British public in the same way as horses like Persian Punch or Desert Orchid over the jumps. Victory at Ascot, however, can only serve to increase his popularity.
Black Caviar has made the journey to Newmarket from her Melbourne home and is reported to have settled in well, but her biggest danger may be the clouds up above. In over 20 races the mare has yet to run on soft ground and such going has been forecast for the opening day of the Royal meeting. It is most likely that she will take it in her stride, but a small doubt has been cast in the minds of punters. Frankel, on the other hand, is used to the eccentricities of the British climate and won on soft ground on his first ever start, although admittedly only by half a length.
Few expect these two horses to be beaten and only a cynic would wish to deprive them from yet another day in the sun (or rain, as is more likely). So tune in to the BBC and enjoy the summer’s two most exhilarating sporting moments this side of Usain Bolt.