The most talked-about female in Australia has the “neck of a duchess and the arse of a cook”.
That less than flattering description applies to Black Caviar, the four-year-old mare who has catapulted horse racing from the back pages to the front and races for the first time in Sydney on Saturday.
Those words, however, are delivered with great affection from the laconic bushman’s mouth of Peter Moody, the Melbourne trainer who picked Black Caviar for five lucky owners and has trained her all the way to international stardom.
Moody attributes the “neck and arse” quote to the great JB Cummings.
Who else but the most quotable man in Australian racing would say such a thing about the attributes needed for a filly or mare to turn the turf world upside down?
“She (Black Caviar) has certainly got that,” says Moody of Bart’s succinct specifications.
“Her hind quarters are phenomenal.
“She is an extremely strong animal.
“At this stage of her preparation she hits the scales at around 575 kilos.
“So for a four-year-old she’s certainly a big, strong girl.”
Black Caviar’s figures are even more impressive than her figure.
The hulking galloper is the number one rated horse in the world, with 11 wins from 11 starts and chasing a 12th at Randwick this weekend.
Her prize money tally already tops $2.6 million, 13 times the $200,000 price tag her owners paid for her, with more on offer in the $1 million TJ Smith Stakes on Saturday.
More than that, Black Caviar is a godsend to the racing industry, and is expected to draw a bumper 30,000 crowd to Randwick.
Special buses have been laid on to bring punters to the big smoke from the country.
Black Caviar flags, lapel ribbons, photos and other merchandise will be on sale, and a Sydney newspaper is running a competition to pick a name for the mare’s first offspring.
Gate sales through Ticketek are running at almost double the volume at the same stage for the meeting last year.
“Hero horses and people’s horses come along very rarely in racing,” Australian Turf Club CEO Darren Pearce said.
“Everyone is getting on board the Black Caviar express.
“She is a magnificent horse to watch, a brilliant physical specimen.”
The unbeaten champion’s trainer was blown away by the media crowd that turned up to greet him at the Inglis saleyards next door to Randwick on Wednesday.
“I haven’t seen as many people at a press conference in Australian racing in my lifetime,” Moody said.
“Cox Plates, Melbourne Cups and Golden Slippers don’t create as much interest as this horse does.”
It’s the first time Black Caviar has raced outside Victoria, and while Moody has his sights on big races in Hong Kong later this year, and possibly England and the US after that, he is happy to let local punters lap her up while they can.
“Why not showcase her here first?” he asked.
“I think we deserve her.
“Why rush her off overseas?
“There are plenty of planes coming this way if they (foreign interests) want to have a crack at her.”
Even rivals are in awe of the peerless sprinter.
“Unfortunately we only see her backside,” jockey Damien Oliver said.
Corey Brown, who will saddle up against Black Caviar aboard last year’s Australian Derby winner Shoot Out, said: “Even though you’re not riding her, or you don’t own her, or you don’t train her, everyone loves to see her winning.
“You obviously get sick of running second to her, but she’s just the perfect racehorse.”
“Blink and you’ll miss her,” proclaim signs in the packed stands when Black Caviar races.
Moody has “no fears” about a wet track, though the weather forecast is improving, and no doubts about racing clockwise for the first time in Sydney, explaining that Black Caviar was broken in that way in Albury and has had plenty of clockwise training gallops.
“Facts and figures tell you the opposition can’t beat her without something going amiss,” Moody said.
“That’s plain and simple.
“I don’t want to sound bullish about it, but she has beaten her major competitors out of sight.
“She has covered them all pretty easily, and is now meeting them better at weights.”
Punters agree, plonking tens of thousands on the raging odds-on favourite on Wednesday while the TAB said the rest of the field had attracted just $133.
“We might just be slow learners,” Sportingbet Australia CEO Michael Sullivan said, “but at this stage it is punters 11 and bookmakers nil.”
Jockey Luke Nolen has only one complaint about his famous charge.
“The ride doesn’t last long enough,” he says.
“The only time I feel any pressure riding her is at trackwork.
“If she comes back without a leg then it is going to fall back on me.
“In a race there are no worries; I just steer her.”
The same nervelessness, alas, is not evident in any of the five owners, who bought Black Caviar from Melbourne “hobby breeder” Rick Jamieson, better known as Harry The Hirer, renter of marquees at big sporting events.
“It’s best to keep away from me (on race day),” said Sydneysider Neil Werrett, who talked four Melbourne mates into buying shares in a horse while they were waterskiing on a houseboat holiday.
“You wouldn’t swap this for anything, but every time she wins another race there’s more pressure,” Werrett, who will be joined in a special marquee by a Melbourne contingent of 60 fellow owners and their families, said.
“One of my partners emailed me at 5am earlier this week saying he couldn’t sleep.
“I was shaking yesterday, he (Moody) was trying to calm me down, and things have not changed today, I can tell you.”
Moody has no worries on that score, either.
“I’m very happy,” the phlegmatic trainer said, “that the horse is more relaxed than the owners.”