The dream stayed alive for the world-beating Black Caviar at Royal Ascot on Saturday, but only after she almost threw away a momentous victory.
The champion mare made it 22 wins from 22 starts in the Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) after shutting down a couple of strides from the winning post when jockey Luke Nolen believed the job was done.
For trainer Peter Moody, the heartstopping finish raised the possibility that Black Caviar has run her last race while proving her greatness at the same time.
“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.”
It also proved to Moody what a champion she is.
The trainer admitted he had been worried after the first 400m and had become desperately concerned 300m from the finish.
“I think she’s done one hell of a job.
“She didn’t travel as keen as she usually does – she didn’t have her ears pricked, her neck arched.
“But she was always in control of the race.”
After jumping cleanly, Black Caviar took up the running 600m out and seemed to have the race comfortably in the keeping when a length in front in the final 100m.
Nolen said he believed she would then do what she normally does and roll to the line under her own steam.
“But the big engine shut down and I shit myself,” Nolen said.
“When I relaxed, she came right back underneath me.
“It was a rookie mistake – I was looking after her.
“I just underestimated how gruelling this track is.”
Nolen said it would have been a “travesty” had Black Caviar been beaten and his main hope was that his miscalculation wouldn’t overshadow her win.
Thousands of Australians made the trip to Ascot for the international debut of the second highest-ranked horse in the world who had also been adopted by locals who waved Black Caviar flags and decked themselves out in her salmon and black colours.
It was for them that Moody was most concerned after the race.
“I’m slightly disappointed for the British public who have come here to support like she was one of theirs,” he said.
“But you don’t win 22 from 22 by being a mug.
“I hope they know that.”
One of the first to pat Black Caviar after her win was the Queen, whose 60 years on the throne were commemorated in the name of Saturday’s race.
“I’m an extremely proud Aussie – words can’t describe the feeling just to be here,” he said.
“It was quite overwhelming to meet the Queen.”
Black Caviar (1-6 fav) scored by a head from the French runner Moonlight Cloud with a neck to another French filly, Restiadargent.
Black Caviar will spend the next 28 days in quarantine at her English training base at Newmarket.
When she returns to Australia, Moody will assess her recovery with a view to preparing her for Melbourne’s major spring races.
“But it’s all about her – she’s had a lot of injuries,” he said.
“We’ll just wait and see.”