Saturday, 12 March 2011

Why Caviar will be off the menu at Ascot

In the wake of Black Caviar's stunning victory in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap at Flemington this morning, many European racing fans are wondering if the great mare will be seen at Royal Ascot.

The star Australian sprinters Scenic Blast, Choisir, Miss Andretti and Takeover Target have already been successful at the big meeting in June. And Black Caviar has proved herself their superior.

Black Caviar's connections are unwilling to let the world champion sprinter make the trip, however. So, many observers have reacted by suggesting the Ascot executive should offer a financial incentive.

It would be a tremendous boost for global racing if Black Caviar came to the Royal meeting. The four-year-old has quickly developed a following among British and Irish Flat racing fans which can only swell before June.

Sadly, it is not going to happen. And the reason? 

Bad blood.

Black Caviar's outspoken trainer Peter Moody is firmly entrenched in his position that European sprinters should be prepared to make the opposite journey, once in a while.

In 2008, Moody became embroiled in a row with British trainer Mark Johnston which was aroused by the Australian sprinter Takeover Target, winner of the 2006 King's Stand Stakes at the Royal meeting. 

Takeover Target, trained by Joe Janiak, had tested positive for a banned substance HPC (basically an appetite stimulant) before the Hong Kong International meeting five months after his Ascot success.

Johnston railed against Takeover Target's return to Ascot in 2008, composing a strongly-worded article for his in-house magazine Kingsley Klarion. The piece appeared under the picture of a juiced-up bodybuilder and carried the headline: "Invitation To Cheat?"

Moody, who was at Ascot to saddle another smart sprinter Magnus, retorted sharply: "I would suggest Mark Johnston is one of the most unpopular trainers in England, and I don't think anyone will take much notice of what he has to say anyway. He is talking out of his backside. 

"We have far more stricter drug-rules than they could ever dream of here in England. Everyone, myself included, tries to give our horses every advantage, but, at the same time, we try to work within the rules. This particular drug [HPC] wasn't against the rules of racing."

As the row fermented, British trainer Jeremy Noseda added the weight of his opinion. Then, Moody had more to say himself, as the argument somewhat changed direction:

"I'd love to see one of these blokes get off their own dunghill and come down to Australia to compete with us," he said. "Even Mr Noseda, who wants to throw his toys out of the cot now and again.

"It's disappointing and surprising the Europeans don't target our sprints and only come down for the Melbourne Cup. It's easier to travel sprinters and the money is so good - only last Saturday, we had a million-dollar handicap in Brisbane. 

"It would be a lot better if we could get this North v South thing going at both ends."

Of course, barbed comments of this type hardly preclude other sporting rivalries between Britain and Australia. But, Moody does appear to have painted himself into a corner, and he has stated firmly he has no intention of sending Black Caviar to Royal Ascot.

While money can smooth even the most furrowed brow, and every man is supposed to have his price, it does seem extremely unlikely that the gruff North Queenslander will relent.

So, global racing fans will be deprived of seeing the world champion Black Caviar prove herself on a stage befitting the title. 

If the Ascot executive wanted a suitable tune to call the runners to post for the 2011 King's Stand, they need look no further than Talking Out of Turn by the Moody Blues.