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MELBOURNE, Australia: The top official in Australian horse racing hailed Black Caviar as “a freak horse” after the mare’s thrilling Royal Ascot win on Saturday extended her unbeaten record to 22 races in her first run outside her homeland.
Australian Racing Board chief executive Andrew Harding said there would never be another horse like Black Caviar, which held out the fast-finishing Moonlight Cloud by a nose in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes in front of Queen Elizabeth II and around 77,000 fans, among them many Australians.
He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation “there was a lot of hype, there was a lot of talk about it, and Australia’s done it.”
Harding evoked Australia’s history as a British penal colony, saying, “Quite frankly, this is the convicts storming Ascot, this is Australian racing’s America’s Cup moment.
“This is a freak horse and Australia produced it and it has conquered the world.”
More than 5,000 Australians were thought to be among the crowd at Royal Ascot on Saturday. The Australian High Commission in London said it received unprecedented interest from Australians resident in England for the 400 passes to the Royal Enclosure that it allocated by ballot.
Mark De Campo, who was among the Australians in the crowd, said he flew from Melbourne especially for the race.
“We have come over just for this, it would have been a downer had she not won, so we’re very relieved she held on,” he told the Australian Associated Press.
Sydney man Kym Fullgrabe, who watched the race from the Royal Enclosure, told AP “regardless of Australian or British or other visitors, all the money was on Black Caviar. I heard no one yelling for any other horse.”
Hundreds of late-night revellers gathered in Melbourne’s Fed Square in bitterly cold temperatures to watch the race on big screens.
Judy and Simon McLelland said they had come in specially from Blackburn on the city’s outskirts to watch the race which was “a piece of history.”
“We’re so absolutely proud to be Australian,” Judy McLelland said. “This is better than Melbourne Cup Day.”
The Melbourne Age said one young man, Jessie Burton, literally tore his curly hair out as Black Caviar held out Midnight Cloud to win the closest of photo finishes.
“That was a bit too close,” Burton told the newspaper, realizing there were strands of hair caught in his fingers.
Burton’s mates quickly calmed him. “What are you on about?” one said. “She nailed it.” -- AP