Black Caviar, the champion Australian mare, gave punters and fans a scare when she won at Royal Ascot — but only just.
The horse — which has now won 22 races from 22 starts, most of them by several body lengths — scraped home by inches in the Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes as Queen Elizabeth looked on.
Black Caviar, a 1-6 favorite in the race, had been flown 11,000 miles from Australia especially for the race, her first outside Australia.
On the flights, she wore a specially designed equine compression suit.
Jockey Luke Nolan also came in for criticism for his "brain fade" in letting Caviar slow down about 100 yards from the winning post, and finishing first by a head from French horse Moonlight Cloud.
According to the Guardian, he later admitted he was surprised by how quickly Black Caviar relaxed when he eased back close to the finish line:
"I just thought I could coast. Because it was grueling, she stopped. She's a relaxed mare and that was an error that every apprentice is taught not to do and I got away with it. I just let her idle at the finish and maybe the big engine just shut itself down. I duly shit myself. It's quite unfortunate because it's going to overshadow what was a very good win. They're going to talk more about my brain fade than the horse's fantastic effort."
The paper pointed out that such his actions would not have been overlooked in Australia, where strict racing rules mean a jockey who comes close to losing a major race through failing to ride out to the line "can expect severe punishment," including the possibility of losing his share of the prize money and suspension.
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However, if Black Caviar trainer Peter Moody was upset, he didn't show it: "You've only got to win by a quarter of an inch. We've got the job done."
However, he hinted at time away from the track for the horse that many Australians believe to be the greatest since 1930 Melbourne Cup winner Phar Lap.
"It may be that she has graced a racetrack for the last time," Moody said. "I don't want to put the cart before the horse ... let's just get her home and have a look at her."
According to Sky News, the trainer also admitted he had been worried after the first 400 meters and became more concerned 300 meters from the finish.
"She didn't travel as keen as she usually does — she didn't have her ears pricked, her neck arched," he said.
"But she was always in control of the race."
Asked if he was disappointed she didn't dominate the field as expected, he said, Fairfax reported:
"We never ask her for dominance... We're very proud of her. She's 22 out of 22 [races]. It's never about margins, it's never about dominance. I'm an extremely proud Aussie."