Sunday 18 February 2018

Late Nolen lapse may be blessing in disguise

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Black Caviar's dramatic victory at Royal Ascot on Saturday brought the curtain down on a remarkable week in fittingly compelling style.

Luke Nolen, her regular rider, was genuinely remorseful afterwards that he very nearly made a dog's dinner of his sensational mount's flawless record.

If the Jubilee photo finish had gone the other way, Nolen (above) would justifiably have had the book thrown at him, but it didn't and some of the criticism that he has endured -- before ever encountering what the notoriously unsympathetic Australian media have to say -- has been over the top and unjustified.

In her previous races, Black Caviar always strode out wilfully to the line once Nolen had given her the go-ahead to win her race. He would press the button, and then just sit there.

On this occasion, though, the wonder mare was less than her imperious self. When Nolen first asked her to pick up, the response wasn't immediate, but she stuck her head down and fought her way to the front just over a furlong out, into what seemed a commanding position.

Nolen sat up 50 yards from the line -- far later than he normally does as a result of her labouring to get there -- clearly expecting his mount to stride home in characteristic fashion. However, Black Caviar instead began to pull up, and the reasons for that seem plentiful.

She had only recently travelled halfway around the world, she was racing on slower conditions than she usually encounters and over a stiffer course than she had ever experienced.

Moreover, and most importantly, she was injured, as was clearly evident from the television pictures that showed her trotting back lame in front of the stands.

As a result, once Nolen sat up, the mare's natural response was to ease off the revs. In that sense, Black Caviar's jockey blatantly misread the situation, but it was a basic error of judgment and not, as one report unfairly suggested, "unnecessary recklessness".

For some reason, there was far less clamour to brand Mickael Barzalona unnecessarily reckless when he stood bolt upright on Pour Moi in last year's Epsom Derby, brazenly showboating prematurely.

In normal circumstances, Black Caviar wouldn't have powered down the way that she did on Saturday. Sure enough, it was confirmed yesterday that she had pulled muscles behind, and her brilliant trainer Peter Moody also revealed that she was far more drained than normal.

Moody always maintained that his chief concern had been what the long journey from Australia would take out of Black Caviar, and the sluggish nature of her performance would suggest that was a well-founded apprehension.

Maybe Nolen sensed as much during the race, further informing his decision not to ask any more of her than was required -- a long-stated team policy that has yielded 22 career wins, 12 of which have come at the highest level.

Moody went on to suggest that, having initially feared Black Caviar might have run her last race due to her injuries, he now expects her to race on later in the year.

While it may be a perverse way of looking at it, in hindsight, Luke Nolen's injudicious but sympathetic handling of Black Caviar, the world's fastest racehorse that still beat the best Europe had to offer when half-crocked, might just have prolonged her stunning career. The legend lives on.

Melbourne Cup option open for Simenon

Irish trainers clocked out of Royal Ascot with a massive eight winners, equalling the record haul set in 2008. Simenon, which provided Willie Mullins with his first at the Berkshire festival in the Ascot Stakes on Tuesday, doubled the champion National Hunt handler's tally by following up with a runaway seven-length victory under Ryan Moore in the Queen Alexandra on Saturday.

Speaking yesterday, Mullins revealed ambitious plans for the improving handicapper. "I think we're aiming towards the Goodwood Cup," he reported. "The only thing wrong with that is that it is on Galway Hurdle day, but I think I might travel to Goodwood, as I've never been there. The Melbourne Cup is in the back of our minds."

Earlier, Bansha-based David Marnane had enjoyed his first success at the fixture when Dandy Boy ran out a decisive winner of the Wokingham.

Now a six-year-old, Dandy Boy has been a real money-spinner for the up-and-coming Marnane, having previously been successful in the track's Victoria Cup two years ago and in a valuable Meydan handicap last year.

Saddler's Rock to try for Goodwood glory

John Oxx has revealed that Saddler's Rock, beaten less than a length when third in Thursday's thrilling Gold Cup, will also now be aimed at the Goodwood equivalent Group Two next month.

The promising four-year-old posted a career-best effort behind Colour Vision at Ascot on just his eighth start despite events conspiring against him on the day.

"We were delighted with the horse," Oxx admitted. "He ran a great race. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The rain came, then there was no pace and he just didn't quicken quite as well on softer ground. He pulled quite hard and he's normally relaxed, so it was a good effort to run as well as he did."

Arc winner eclipsed

Meandre (59/10) recorded his first win since landing last year's Grand Prix de Paris when running out a length-and-a-quarter victor of yesterday's Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. Andre Fabre's four-year-old, a never dangerous sixth in the 'Arc' behind Danedream in October, turned the tables on the German filly this time, with the odds-on favourite trailing in last of four behind the Maxim Guyon-ridden winner.

McDonogh on fire

Declan McDonogh was the man in form at Down Royal on Saturday, landing the two feature events at combined odds of 71/1. The 2006 champion jockey took the Magners Ulster Derby on Alhellal (7/1) for Athy-based Maurice Phelan, before then steering Balrath Hope to a comfortable victory in the Oaks for Co Meath's Gavin Cromwell at odds of 8/1.


3 -- The number of winners that Jim Bolger's 2009 Epsom Derby hero New Approach has sired to date from his first crop of two-year-olds. Remarkably, all three, Dawn Approach, Newfangled and Tha'Ir, were on the mark at Royal Ascot.


@PTownend @Paulcarberry you'll have your work cut out to beat that for confidence PC!

-- Paul Townend thinks Paul Carberry might have found his match after watching Luke Nolen narrowly avoid a calamity on Black Caviar on Saturday.

Irish Independent

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